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2019 Q1 WEEE recycling improves on 2018 but still underperforms

In this brave new 'Open Scoped' world, there was always going to be an added element of excitement or nervousness surrounding the latest set of Q1 WEEE collection figures.

With an overall collection target around 12% higher than 2018, the Q1 figures will always be an important benchmark in what is a very important year for the UK recycling industry.  

Cursory analysis makes the tonnage levels collected look reasonably healthy compared to the same period last year, with collections increasing in Q1 2019 against the same position in Q1 2018. However, this was to be expected with the raised targets for 2019, along with the change in scoping for some performing categories. So good so far.

Not quite a rosy outlook

However, once we look at each category of WEEE as a % of its annual target, things start to look a little less rosy. At this stage of the year we’d be hoping to see a flat 25% of annual target achieved, however as you can see in the table below the UK is currently at just 22.4%.

2019 Q1 WEEE figures

There are some individual category-based success stories, with Category 1 (Large Household Appliances) close to target, with just off 1,000 more tonnes collected compared to the same point last year. Similarly, Category 12 (Refrigerants) continues its good collection form from 2018, slightly down on % of annual target, but seeing almost a 2,000 tonne increase on the same period last year. IT and Telecomms and Display Equipment both had a disappointing start to the year in terms of tonnage collected, however as an overall % of annual target (22% and 23% respectively) they’re not too far off.

With the UK falling short of its 2018 target by around ~45,000 tonnes, seeing almost all categories under 25% of the annual target should be a wake-up call. It is within the Secretary of State’s gift to grant a compliance fee on an annual basis – this has always been granted in the past, however it could be argued that consistent use of the compliance fee indicates that the targets themselves are unrealistic.

Review of the WEEE regulations

The Government have a duty to perform a post-implementation review of regulations every 5 years (in order to assess performance and that the policy is essentially working) – this is currently 6 months behind schedule, but we do hope to see it in the coming months. Defra have also commissioned a leading research consultancy to ‘identify the essential characteristics for a successful EPR regime for EEE’ with a workshop taking place later this month.

We will be in attendance, along with several industry heavyweights, the report of which will inform a public consultation due in 2020 according to the Governments Resource and Waste Strategy.

Robbie Staniforth, Head of policy commented “This year the UK government has set much more challenging targets in each category in order to meet the EU target of 65% in 2019. While these figures aren’t quite as poor as perhaps anticipated, it highlights the likelihood that compliance schemes and their producers will be relying on the compliance fee again in 2019."

"It is possible that the fee will reach a similar magnitude to the £8m generated in 2017. It is very fortunate that the fee is in place as a fall-back mechanism to ensure that producer funds contribute towards increasing amounts of WEEE collected and treated."

"For some time, we have highlighted to government that the system needs to be reviewed. We anticipate the release of Defra’s post-implementation review in the next month or so. We hope to read that tweaks are required in order to increase the collection and treatment rates of WEEE in the UK"

Robbie will be speaking at CIWM’s Resourcing the Future event next week to give a view on how the regulations should be adapted. If you see him please do say hello, he’d love to talk to you.


Kester Byass

Key account manager

Kester is one of our key account managers, helping our larger members manage their legal obligations as well as having a meaningful impact on UK recycling. Kester has broad experience, having previously worked for Forum for the Future, various product management roles within energy companies and most recently as a producer for a digital agency, helping clients to get closer to their customers through insight, research and technology.


Written by Kester Byass Published 05/06/2019 Topics WEEE

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