As predicted earlier in the year, the positive trend of WEEE collections experienced in Q1 has unfortunately failed to carry through into Q2.
Despite promising results in Q1, the provisional figures for Q2 2020 indicate that WEEE collections are down considerably, with collection totals at less than half the amount achieved in Q1. The data is yet to be validated by the Environment Agency, but still gives a good indication of the results.
As we have all experienced in the last three months, the effects of the COVID-19 lock-down has impacted the market in unprecedented ways. With non-essential retail stores, council run household waste recycling sites and reprocessing sites being closed, the take-back and general recycling of these items has dramatically reduced.
Despite a collection target revision in March in anticipation of the impact of COVID-19, Q2 is proving to be the worst result in the collection of WEEE since 2013. Most of the WEEE categories are now performing at just above one third of the annual target – not where we aim to be at over halfway through the year. The most successful of this under-performing group is Category 1: Large household appliances, coming in at 46%, only just shy of the 50% mark.
There is one positive trend that has continued into Q2. Collections have soared above the annual target for Photovoltaic Panels, with half the year still remaining.
Next steps - where do we go from here?
Acting as a safety valve during COVID-19 is the WEEE compliance fee, an alternative to procuring recycling evidence when there is not enough available in the market for compliance schemes to purchase to meet the obligations of their members.
The compliance fee is managed by Material Focus (formally known as the WEEE Fund) who invest the funds into initiatives such as the recent campaign that offered £5 million worth of interest-free loans and grants to both AATF’s and charities working within the reuse sector who have been impacted by COVID-19. Since May, 14 companies and 34 charities have been supported by this grant, totalling over £2.5 million so far.
Material Focus also launched the Recycle your electricals campaign, a UK-wide awareness campaign launched at the beginning of May, encouraging and supporting more people to reuse and recycle their old electricals.
Widespread use of the compliance fee
Robbie Staniforth, head of policy at Ecosurety commented "It comes as no surprise that Q2 results are below par, given the extraordinary circumstances. The only good news appears to be the collection figures for photovoltaic panels, which may have increased as a result of home improvements during the lockdown period."
"However, the overall poor performance could have a silver lining, namely that fewer electrical goods may have been discarded by citizens. In a circular economy, things should last. If there has not been an increase in fly-tipping or discarding of electricals in unrecyclable waste destined for incineration or landfill in Q2, we should reframe these statistics as an achievement.
This will be scant consolation for producers who will, nevertheless, be expected to fund equivalent recycling via the Compliance Fee. It will be interesting to see how Defra frame the magnitude of fees payable. There is likely to be widespread use of the fee due to such extraordinarily poor performance."
"It will certainly be interesting to see if the methodology chosen by government contains the usual big scheme bias of recent years that sees dominant market players pay far less per tonne than their competitors.”
Let’s hope with the reopening of all businesses and recycling sites, as well as the activities launched by Material Focus, that these figures increase for the latter part of 2020.
Rae is a key part of our account management team, working closely with our members to keep everything running seamlessly, from data submissions and regulatory updates through to training and pack-weighing audits. Rae has more than a keen interest in sustainable living and lifestyle development and in her spare time is part of a Plastic Free Bristol group organised by Surfers Against Sewage, helping local businesses gain Plastic-Free accreditation.