Waste electrical and electronic equipment compliance scheme WEEE Ireland chief executive Leo Donovan said his firm faces the twin challenges of finding good markets for end of life materials and adapting to new electrical products on the market.
WEEE Ireland has 75 per cent of the market and is the largest WEEE scheme in Ireland. The firm has recently announced that it has succeeded in meeting double the European Union target in WEEE collection rates. Last year, it collected 9.10 KG of WEEE per head of population against the EU target of 4Kg per head of population
Speaking to MRW Donovan said: One of the biggest challenges that we face is finding markets for metals and plastic. We are trying to sustain the level of finance coming in from the precious metals we recover. The market for metals and plastic did recover slightly but it has recently dipped back down again.
Donovan explained that his firm had to look for alternative markets for cathode ray tube glass from TV monitors as more producers produce flat screen TVs. He said this ongoing evolution of changing products was a challenge to recycle.
He added that WEEE Irelands membership of the European WEEE Forum [EU association of WEEE producer responsibility organisations] affords them to make direct contact with the industry and discuss issues such as finding alternative markets for CRTs.
Donovan said it was a task to take apart flat screen TVs for recycling and retailers were starting to dispose of demonstration flat screen models or ones that have fallen and broken.
WEEE Ireland has also started to collect energy saving lightbulbs which come in small quantities and contain hazardous materials.
However, the compliance scheme has continued to increase its take-back of small household appliances, including CRTs and lighting. Donovan said the firm recovered 20 per cent of small household appliances compared to last year but the amount of large appliances were down by 10 per cent because of the recession.
Donovan added that people in Ireland had a good deal of knowledge on the topic of WEEE and this has been helped by an extensive publicity campaign. The firm commissioned a telephone survey last year and found that 66 per cent of those surveyed were aware that old or broken electrical goods can be recycled free of charge at recycling centres or at retailers. Last year, WEEE Ireland sponsored one series of the Irish version of the TV show The Apprentice.
Donovan said that it attracted more than 500,000 viewers and captured a high proportion of the over-thirties audience.
He also said that consumers of electrical products are shown a visible fee on the electrical products they buy to show how much the producers have put into the costs of WEEE collection, treatment and disposal.