WEEE Recycling Rates Fall Amid Growing Cost Of Living Crisis

There are fears the ongoing cost of living crisis may impact on recycling rates of waste electricals and electronic equipment (WEEE). Let’s Recycle reports that the latest data on collection rates from UK households shows a decrease in collections for the third quarter of the year, compared to the same time last year. 

Louise Grantham, chief executive of WEEE producer compliance scheme REPIC, commented that it “seems unlikely” the targets will be met because collections in the fourth quarter of the year tend to be lower, especially this year “with the impact the cost of living crisis has had, and is expected to continue to have, on the amount of EEE placed on the market.”

She added: “Whilst there is not always a direct causal link between WEEE collections and EEE placed on the market, the impact on disposable income is likely to make householders more cautious in both their spending and disposal decisions.”

She continued: “If compliance schemes are unable to meet their targets through collection, a compliance fee methodology that reflects the impact of the current very difficult market conditions will be important if we are to avoid undue financial burden on producers, and ultimately the consumer.”

Louisa Goodfellow, policy advisor at producer compliance scheme Ecosurety, echoed Ms Grantham’s fears.  She said: “Although it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why under 70% of the target has been achieved by Q3, it’s likely partly due to current inflationary pressures and energy prices affecting transport and treatment costs.” 

She continued: “Furthermore, the increased cost of living on consumers can already be seen in this year’s lowered placed on market figures, so it makes sense that the availability and collection of goods such as large household appliances has followed suit.”

The world faces a growing mountain of WEEE, as many products are manufactured with built-in obsolescence dates, and tech firms routinely update their software on an annual basis. Methods of collection and recycling are still patchy in many countries, leading to wasted resources, and the potential for environmental damage through toxic leaks. 

Meanwhile, Materials Focus has launched an £2.5m Electricals Recycling Fund, to support projects which make it easier for the public to recycle WEEE. Materials Recycling World reports that the scheme will make use of existing infrastructure, as well as supporting new methods of recycling small electrical items. 

Executive director Scott Butler said: “This fund provides an exciting opportunity to make it easier for millions more people to recycle electricals from their doorsteps, and to test innovative ways to tackle one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the UK and globally.”

According to the organisation, UK households discard 155,000 tonnes of WEEE annually, which contain valuable and finite metals such as silver, copper, gold, and aluminium. Individuals are not able to apply to the scheme, but it is open to local authorities, waste contractors, retailers, and non-profits.

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