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Defra's WEEE targets criticised by ESA

WEEE collection

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) has been left disappointed after Defra rejected calls for higher UK WEEE collection targets and, in some categories, opted for lower increases than originally proposed.

Defra has announced that the overall target for 2017 is 622,033 tonnes, 40,617 tonnes higher than the household WEEE collected and reported by producer compliance schemes (PCSs) in 2016.

The department had previously consulted on a total of 634,000 tonnes before opting for the lower figure.

Individually, there are lower targets for large household appliances (Category 1), IT and telecoms equipment (Category 3) and photovoltaic panels (Category 14). There is an increase for lamps (Category 13). The rationale for the changes are listed below. 

The methodology for calculating the targets is based on the average annual growth in tonnes of WEEE collected for each category since 2012.

Both totals are below the EU target of 776,000 tonnes. But Defra expects the shortfall to be made up by WEEE arising and treated from other sources, such as large domestic appliances appearing in the light iron waste stream.

The ESA reaction said: “Responding to a Defra consultation in early March, we called for substantially higher 2017 WEEE collection targets than those being proposed, particularly for appliances such as refrigerators, to ensure that as much WEEE as possible is collected and recycled under the producer responsibility system.

“ESA is therefore disappointed that Defra ministers decided on 28 March not to introduce the higher targets ESA called for, and indeed decided to bring in smaller increases than first proposed for some categories of WEEE.”

The ESA says it will continue to work with officials on improving the UK WEEE system with the aim of ensuring that the true costs of collection fall on producers and their compliance schemes rather local authorities and waste management companies.

Category 1: Collections in 2016 were 21% higher than in 2015. This is significantly higher than in the preceding years, and is likely to have been caused by the collapse in scrap metal prices. Lower scrap prices reduce revenues and hence incentives for collectors to deal with appliances outside the official system. Scrap prices have since recovered and metal prices (to which scrap prices are closely related) are forecast to continue their recovery through 2017. For this reason the average annual growth rate between 2012 and 2015 is seen as a more reliable guide to the growth in collections between 2016 and 2017. Applying this growth rate to the level of collections in 2016 gives a target of 232,811. The high level of collections in 2016 ensures that this is still a stretching target.

Category 3: IT and Telecoms Equipment: Collections in 2015 were 31% higher than in 2014 as a result of the introduction of the “dual use” classification. The average annual growth rate of collections between 2012 and 2016 is 11%, slightly higher than the 10% growth of collections last year. Applying this to the level of collections in 2016 gives a target of 57,879. The target takes account of consultation responses which call for some degree of stretch in the target to take account of the 30,694 tonnes of WEEE collected outside arrangements with PCSs. It also acknowledges that the market for non-obligated WEEE in this stream is fragmented, so creating a challenging environment for PCSs to capture these flows in their arrangements over the short-term.

Category 13: Gas Discharge Lamps and LED Light Sources: Household lamp waste tonnages rose over the last year, reflecting the replacement of the first wave of energy-saving lamps installed around a decade ago. By contrast business tonnages have been falling as a result of a shift to longer-lasting LED lamps, growth in the installation of integrated LED luminaries, and product light-weighting. The interplay of these factors means it is difficult to reliably forecast collections in the near future. In line with the approach taken for the display category, the target has been set at the level of collections in 2016. The revision to the target takes account of consultation responses that suggested that the original proposal may have been too low. This might have risked reduced demand for waste lamps arising at household waste recycling centres.

Category 14: PV panels: It is estimated that 1,008,740 tonnes of photovoltaic panels had been installed until the end of 2016. Of this, it is estimated that 0.0026% (25.72 tonnes) will be returned as WEEE. It is estimated that 34,000 tonnes of PV panels will be put on the market in 2017. This is a reduction compared to the 49,000 tonnes placed on the market in 2016. A reduction is expected because of the final closure of the renewables obligation to sites larger than 5MW in March 2016. The final closure of the renewables obligation to sites smaller than 5MW will occur in March 2017. It is estimated that 0.05% (17.00 tonnes) of the installations in 2017 will be returned as WEEE. This gives a total target of 42.72 tonnes.

Source: Defra briefing - file attached

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