Published on the 26th of November, the Environmental Audit Committee demonstrated the economic and environmental opportunities for WEEE. In sum, the Committee advocates that the UK Government should take proactive action to create a circular economy for electronics.
Environmental Audit Committee – WEEE & the Circular Economy
The select committee of the House of Commons, the Environmental Audit Committee, examines how the UK Government’s actions and policies impact the wider environment. Cutting across the whole UK Government, the Committee holds public bodies to account by auditing against environmental protection targets.
In their latest publication, the Environmental Audit Committee has analysed the economic and environmental opportunities for WEEE (waste from electrical and electronic equipment). Broadly, the Committee’s recommendations for the world’s fastest-growing waste stream boils down to:
- Take proactive action in preventing WEEE from falling into general waste streams.
- Set ambitious long-term WEEE collection, reuse and recycling targets that prioritise reducing consumption and improve retaining resources.
- Focus on funding waste recycling infrastructure with £3 billion invested by 2042.
- Close the online retailer loophole and ensure that those online retailers face the same producer compliance scheme obligations as retail stores.
- Highlight repairability scores for EEE (electrical and electronic equipment) to the consumer. Informing them of the EEE’s design and availability of spare parts.
- Challenge the Environment Agency (EA) to take stronger action against the illegal exports of WEEE.
Prevent WEEE from falling into general waste streams
Worryingly, the Committee revealed that a significant portion of the UK’s WEEE is not treated correctly: “A lot of it goes to landfill, incineration or is dumped overseas”. Going further, they argue that the UK’ recycling systems are not fit for purpose. Suggesting that WEEE often ends up incinerated and its valuable resources – such as gold, silver, copper, platinum and other critical raw materials – wasted.
The current UK waste management process prioritises shredding which – according to the Committee – leads to the loss of highly engineered parts and those critical raw materials. Treating and recycling WEEE correctly would benefit the environment and economy.
Ambitious long-term collection, reuse and recycling targets
With a focus on reducing consumption and shifting away from recovery, the Committee urges the UK Government to set ambitious WEEE targets. These targets include demanding a very high-performance standard for the collection and recycling of WEEE. Furthermore, the Committee recommends redefining of WEEE targets and to avoid using weight-based metrics which fail to incentives the capture of valuable resources.
Fairly invest £3 billion into waste infrastructure
Outlined by the Resources and Waste Strategy, the UK Government is set to invest £3 billion into the waste industry by 2042. Querying the investment, find that the “programme is focused on thermal energy from waste or mechanical-biological treatment plants”.
To avoid branding recovery and recycling as equals, the Committee endorses investment strategies that fund high-quality recycling facilities over recovery operations: “Energy from Waste, though important to prevent items going to landfill, should be treated as a low priority in UK waste infrastructure investment strategies”.
Close online retailer loopholes
Painting an unfavourable picture, the Committee illustrates that the high street is under substantial pressure. The unfair producer compliance scheme obligations reduce the high street’s competitive advantage. This is because online retailers utilise loopholes to avoid respecting their producer compliance scheme obligations.
As a matter of urgency, the Committee stresses that “all large online retailers and marketplaces must arrange and pay for like-for-like electronic waste collection from a customer’s home on delivery of new electronics”.
Highlight repairability scores for EEE
The Committee established that the growth of consumer EEE has led to economic and quality of life improvements. However, as EEE becomes more complex and delicate, the UK consumer is not taking appropriate efforts to repair or reuse the products.
First, the UK Government should ban the practice of planned obsolescence which intentionally shortens the lifespan of EEE. Furthermore, the Committee suggests that producers label their EEE with a repairability score. This score will highlight to the consumer the item’s expected lifetime, design, availability of spare parts and the simplicity of repair manuals.
Stong action against illegal exporting
The Committee demonstrated the UK is one of the biggest exporters of WEEE in the world. Regrettably, the exportation of WEEE to countries with sub-standard treatment methods is commonplace. By using the repairable EEE loophole, exporters can wrongly export WEEE; causing the local UK recycling market to contract and shrink. As a first step, the Committee adds that the EA should begin to classify all returned EEE as WEEE.
SUPPORT AVAILABLE AT WISER
The team at Wiser has extensive experience within the WEEE sector and is ready to provide waste businesses with support. For more information contact Wiser Environment or call on 01480 462232. Additionally, Wiser Recycling also offers WEEE recycling support. From collections to disposal – Wiser Recycling a provide one-stop-shop for all types of WEEE recycling. For more information contact Wiser Recycling or call on 01480 464111.