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Study set to further understanding on the fate of waste electricals and electronics

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The WEEE Fund is seeking expressions of interest to carry out research into the fate of waste electricals and electronics by 15 March.

The new research comes after successive years of missed collection targets under the UK waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) regulations and projections that the UK will struggle to increase collections without major changes to the system.

The study is being commissioned to help to ensure that any future policy interventions are based on sound empirical evidence. It seeks to quantify to what extent activities such as repair, reuse, hoarding, theft and destruction mean that these products are not available to be recycled or that their appearance as “waste” will be delayed.

Scott Butler, WEEE Fund Project Manager, said: “There is no question of the benefits of recycling electronic and electrical waste. However, the route that these products take before they ultimately become waste is not always clear. We need to understand the journey these products make through the economy so we can set better targets and intervene at the right places to ensure that we maximise the amount of recycling that takes place in the UK.”

The work will build on work already carried out for the WEEE Fund and published today, which begins to explore unreported WEEE flows in the UK and the levels of theft from local authority household waste recycling centres.

Work by environmental consultancy Anthesis suggests that some waste electronics and electricals – such as air conditioning, building controls and lighting – are being disposed of as construction and demolition waste. While others are being reused (vending machines, commercial power tools, medical equipment, gym equipment) or stored in homes (some small mixed equipment, household tools and equipment). They conclude that it is likely that a significant fraction of small mixed waste electricals is being disposed of in the bin, and thus sent to landfill.

Meanwhile, consultancy 360 Environmental explored concerns that theft at local authority sites meant a significant volume of WEEE was being stolen from the sites. The work concluded that many local authorities have begun to address theft from sites with the introduction of CCTV and vehicle recognition software at sites. It means that while theft still happens it is unlikely to be at the scale seen in the past, although some sites continued to be blighted.

“Our work provides a useful snapshot of the activity we know is happening outside of the mainstream WEEE system. Some is perfectly legitimate, innovative and commendable even, while some is absolutely not legitimate. We need to seriously think about how we can differentiate between the two and treat the material in question properly,” said Anthesis’ Dr Richard Peagam, Associate Director Global Producer Responsibility.

The project is being financed via the WEEE Fund generated from the WEEE Compliance Fee in 2017. More information on the WEEE Compliance Fee Fund 2017 is available at www.weeefund.uk

 

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