The ability of consumers to dispose of their electricals, and PCSs to collect WEEE, was affected by the closure of many collection points, including most local authority Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs), for much of quarter two, and the restrictions on travel and operational activities in place for most of the year. It is clear that Covid-19 significantly impacted the levels of WEEE available for collection.
For this reason, Defra decided not to use the WEEE collections data from 2020 for the 2021 target setting process, instead using 2019 collections as a starting point to which a five year collections growth trend was added. Defra then considered whether this calculation resulted in an appropriate target for each category, making adjustments where considered necessary.
The overall UK household collection target for 2021 is 503,629 tonnes. This is 1,092 tonnes more than the total amount of household WEEE collected and reported by PCSs to the environment agencies in 2019 and 6,241 tonnes more than the 2020 target. It is however 43,495 tonnes more than the WEEE collected in 2020.
The graph below plots the total household WEEE collected between 2014 and 2020 and the 2021 target. Whilst the impact of Covid-19 is evident in 2020, the illustration shows the recovery in collections expected by Defra.
We welcome Defra’s decision to reduce some of the category targets initially proposed and remain committed to ensuring that the WEEE made available is collected and recycled. However, although lockdown restrictions are easing and the opening up of retailers offers more opportunity for consumers to take back their WEEE, the UK is still expected to operate under varying levels of restrictions. The target for this year assumes overall collections will revert back to 2019 levels, and for some categories increase, and this currently looks very challenging.
Taking these factors into account it seems likely that the compliance fee mechanism will be required to meet any collection shortfalls and if so, it should again reflect the impact that Covid 19 may have on collections to avoid producers being penalised for shortfalls outside their control.