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How to keep up the incentives to collect

Figures released by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) at the end of February showed that the overall amount of WEEE collected in 2014 had exceeded the target, although there was a slight shortfall in collections of large domestic appliances (LDA) and small mixed WEEE.

This was followed a week later by a letter from the department to producer compliance schemes (PCSs) and approved authorised treatment facilities (AATFs), setting out proposed WEEE collection targets for 2015 and giving those involved a week to respond. The suggested overall target for 2015 is 508,756 tonnes, an increase of 18,225 tonnes on the amount of WEEE recorded as evidence by the WEEE Settlement Centre in 2014.

TABLE 2: WEEE FIGURES FROM BIS (RELEASED 25 FEB)

The targets have been based on the average annual growth in tonnes of WEEE collected for each category since 2010, a methodology that BIS felt was “more robust” and more reflective of general trends in collection during the past five years.

Assessing the figures for 2014, Philip Morton, chief executive of PCS Repic, says: “The UK beat its target and, even though Category 1 [LDA] was below its stretched target and ‘mixed’ [small mixed WEEE] missed by a fraction, both still increased compared with last year. Anything that has inherent value once proper collection and treatment costs have been paid for, such as Category 1, will always be collected. It won’t necessarily go through the ‘normal’ PCS channel where the target sits, but as long as it is properly treated and recycled it does not matter – the UK can still count it.”

David Adams, managing director of Clarity Environmental, echoes Morton’s comments that the 2014 figures for LDA indicate that this material is not necessarily being counted within the WEEE compliance system. He says: “It is the same story with LDA as has been in previous compliance years – a vast amount of material is missing from the WEEE collection stream completely. There is no incentive to treat this stream as WEEE, even less so during 2014 as the evidence price decreased even further.”

TABLE 1: B2C WEEE COLLECTION TARGETS (TONNES) FROM BIS

But Morton explains that the WEEE recast and new regulations “recognise there is no sense trying to force holders of valuable items to hand them over but every reason to ensure they are properly treated and recorded in the system”.

He adds: “The UK can count obligated WEEE (that through PCSs), non-obligated WEEE (that through AATFs sent by anyone other than PCSs) and substantiated estimates (for example, that in the scrap metal stream). We are therefore likely to see WEEE move around in these different ‘pots’ so the Category 1 target achievement will be highly variable. The same goes for other categories, but it does not matter as long as it all gets properly treated and reported.”

Putting the 2014 figures into context, Adams explains that small mixed WEEE missed its target by less than 1% or 1,044 tonnes. He adds: “At the same time, Category 13 [lamps] increased from 2013 to 2014 by 1,099 tonnes. As Domestic Category 5 [lighting equipment] is now almost always reported in Category 13, I think it is reasonably safe to assume that if Category 5 remained as was, the target would have been met.”

Adams believes that the UK’s shift to recognising ‘dual-use’ WEEE is likely to have the biggest impact on the collection of Categories 2-10. Under the new rules, which align the UK with European WEEE regulations, electrical equipment that can be used in either the household or work environment will count only as ‘home use’ or ‘business-to-consumer’ (B2C), essentially bringing more material into the scope of household WEEE.

“So, depending on where the target is set for 2015, collections should comfortably increase,” Adams says.

This position is also held by BIS, which states that “an increase in the classification of household WEEE arising from non-household sources is possible in 2015”. But the department adds that internal analysis suggests this is only likely to have a significant impact on Categories 3 and 13.

The proposed 2015 targets for small mixed WEEE have been uplifted by 11,737 tonnes compared with 2014 collections. BIS recognises that “this would be an extremely challenging target to meet through traditional household WEEE collection routes”. But it intends to maintain the target because it anticipates that “some PCSs may seek to achieve their targets by supplementing their existing arrangements with collections of dual-use WEEE from non-household end users in 2015”. Collections aside, Adams warns that future issues could arise with small domestic appliances on the treatment side with the recent market falls.

“AATFs are struggling to find additional value in small mixed WEEE as a result of the market prices for materials dropping considerably in recent weeks. Couple this with a reduction in evidence value claimable by the AATF, and we could see an issue arise on a national level as to how to incentivise AATFs to continue to treat these small domestic appliances.”

 

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