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WEEE industry supports estimates to boost collection figures

Respondents to the Government’s consultation on waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) have shown general support for ‘substantiated estimates’ to count how much WEEE is collected outside of compliance schemes.

Non-compliance firms collecting WEEE are not obligated to report their collections. This means that a large amount of collected waste electronics goes uncounted towards the national targets.

The European Commission’s draft FAQ on the recast WEEE Directive states: “There are significant flows of WEEE outside producer responsibility schemes set up and operated by producers and it is important that all waste streams count towards the collection rate.”

Consequently, the UK Government’s WEEE consultation proposed ‘substantiated estimates’ so that these non-compliance collections can be counted towards the WEEE Directive targets of 45% by 2016, rising to 85% by 2019.

Recolight chief executive Nigel Harvey said that an example of ‘substantiated estimates’ could involve taking samples of scrap metal going through shredders (WEEE is often mixed with scrap metal). The average percentage of WEEE found in the samples could be applied to all scrap metal going through similar shredders to form an estimated total amount. This could then be added to the national collection figures.

Responses to the WEEE consultation showed broad support for substantiated estimates of large domestic appliance collections, but a more mixed response to estimating small domestic appliance collections. Some argued that metal shredders handling small mixed WEEE (SMW) are not able to meet treatment or recovery targets and so they should not count towards member state collection targets.

The majority of respondents agreed that any method of estimation should be subject to regular review, should not result in any reduction in treatment standards, and measures should also be taken to avoid “double counting” of data.

Harvey welcomed substantiated estimates. He told MRW that they “are essential if the UK is to meet its WEEE collection targets in 2016 and 2019.”

The Joint Trade Association (JTA) also welcomed the support for the estimates. Richard Hughes, chairman of the JTA, said: “Without it, the extremely ambitious targets in the new directive would not be achievable.”

Dee Moloney, managing director of sustainable consultancy LRS, told MRW:  “Such estimates would need to be robust to be credible, but if properly implemented they would make the collection targets more relevant.”

She added: “These estimates should not be seen as turning a blind eye to practice in alternative WEEE treatment routes. The sustainability impacts of WEEE treatment, both good from the perspective of the circular economy and bad in cases of mismanagement, are well documented and need to be managed. Treatment standards and interventions to understand the scale and approach to such treatment activities are still necessary.”

  • In May MRW reported on research by LRS Consultancy that claimed electrical equipment manufacturers were at risk of missing their own WEEE collection targets, because of collectors operating outside the compliance scheme system. Non-compliance collectors leave manufacturers with less WEEE to collect and report themselves. ‘Substantiated estimates’ are unlikely to address this issue for manufacturers, according to Harvey.

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