Analysis of the Q4 WEEE Collection data published by the Environment Agency on Tuesday 1st March 2022, shows that total household WEEE collections for 2021 were 490,541 tonnes, 2.6% short of the overall 503,629 tonnes target.
Collections in four individual categories, Cooling, Display, Medical and Monitoring and Control equipment, exceeded the target, however collections in all other categories were below; the biggest shortfall being in the Small Mixed WEEE categories, 2 to 10, which were in overall terms 10.5% below target.
The national lockdowns that took place earlier in the year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, when many retail outlets were closed for the first quarter and some HWRCs had access restrictions in place, undoubtedly affected target achievement in these categories. Total household WEEE collections in 2021 were 6.6% higher than in 2020 but 2.7% lower than 2019 pre-pandemic levels.
Full data published by the Environment Agency can be viewed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/waste-electrical-and-electronic-equipment-weee-in-the-uk
The table below prepared by REPIC on 01/03/2022 shows the percentage achievement against target:
Louise Grantham, REPIC’s chief executive responds to the Q4 2021 published data:
“Setting targets is challenging due to the complex relationship between an item of EEE being placed on the market and its final disposal, meaning a product placed on the market does not always result in the disposal of an item of WEEE; for example, products can be given away or sold for second or further use, repaired or refurbished, or retained within the home.
This has been demonstrated well during the Covid-19 pandemic, where the tonnage of EEE placed on the market in 2020 and 2021 increased by 10.2% and 14.7% respectively, when compared to 2019, yet WEEE collections fell. It is well documented that consumer spending habits changed during this period, with much focus on home improvements and other home-based activities.”
In May 2021 REPIC commissioned a nationally representative consumer survey, asking questions about EEE purchased and disposed of by consumers in the previous year.
- 10% of people had acquired a large fridge/freezer, but only 5% had disposed of one.
- A similar ratio was reported for coffee machines, 6% v 3%, and dishwashers, 4% v 2%.
- For less frequently used items, such as sandwich makers, blenders and mixers, the difference was even greater.
Louise Grantham, concluded:
“Consumer behaviour is therefore one of the principle determining factors in the amount of WEEE available for collection, and whilst some data is available on this, it is certainly not complete.
“As we move towards a more circular economy, our focus will need to broaden from waste generation targets towards those aimed at keeping precious resources in use for longer. In the meantime, however, 2022 will hopefully be a year where the introduction of mandatory in-store takeback, and the Material Focus consumer information campaigns focussing on Small Mixed WEEE, can have full effect, and those consumers holding onto unwanted products will either hand them on for reuse or dispose of them through official routes.
However, the impact of this remains uncertain and it is therefore important that we set targets based on evidence-backed research wherever possible.”