Wiser calls for shake up in WEEE classification

Concerned that the UK will miss its recycling targets for waste electrical and electronic equipment this year, Wiser Recycling, as part of the newly formed AATF Forum, is calling for a shake-up in how the regulators classify WEEE.

The Approved Authorised Treatment Facility (AATF) operators believe that differences in the way that WEEE is defined and recorded by regulators, as well as high volumes of unreported WEEE, resulted in a low recycling rate than expected for 2017.

The AATF Forum has 18 members accounting for an estimated 90% of the UK’s AATF capacity. These operators believe that compliance schemes are putting too much emphasis on the relationship between new EEE sales and old equipment as a potential reason for the UK failing to meet the targets. The Forum believes that data is being misrepresented to show a reduction in the amount of EEE placed on the market which is not indicative of the amount of WEEE being generated or processed. The Forum is calling for more challenging targets to pull WEEE into the regulated system.

The major area for concern amongst operators is what they are calling ‘leakage’ in the system through:

  • A growth in unrecorded reuse
    The Environment Agency (EA) defines EEE as waste once it has arrived at an AATF meaning that many reused appliances and displays are being treated for reuse without being classified as waste. Conversely, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) takes the position that all EEE should be classed as waste from the point of collection.
  • Illegal exports and unreported treatment
    AATF Forum members have reported an increase in enquires for items to export from businesses that are unconcerned with the condition of the items or the legality of their operations. Additionally, WEEE from other sources such as car-boot sales and online platforms is also being illegally exported, some WEEE is going as scrap, and a lot of ‘unobligated’ WEEE is not being captured for evidence.

Managing Director of Wiser Recycling, Russell Hirst, says: “Taking WEEE out of the system and bypassing regulations takes valuable funding away from the WEEE recycling industry which is needed to invest in equipment, improve environmental standards, and increase the quality of the products that we can produce. This will become increasingly important as China raises the quality it requires to receive our recycled materials.”