As new data suggests the UK could have fallen short of its electronic waste collection target, the Environment Agency is investigating an apparent disparity in Britain’s waste collection figures. Bamboo takes a look at the alleged WEEE target shortfall and in what ways more could be done to ensure the UK stays on top of targets.

In February 2015, Matthew Hancock, the UK’s business minister, announced that during 2014 Britain had exceeded its target to collect 490,000 tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

According to reports, the government’s figures were based on data recorded by compliance schemes and held at the WEEE settlement centre. The figures revealed that a total amount of 491,007 tonnes of electronic waste had been collected and treated throughout the year. This meant 2014 was the first time waste collection targets had been surpassed since the new WEEE recycling regulations came into effect.

However, it was later revealed that the amount of waste that had been treated by operators from the Approved Authorised Treatment Facility (AATF), the organisation responsible for issuing WEEE evidence, was significantly lower than the number originally disclosed by the business minister.

According to the Environment Agency (EA), a non-departmental public body which is responsible for the protection of the environment in England, only 481,263 tonnes of WEEE had been reported as being recycled at Approved Authorised Treatment Facilities.

A 10,000-ton shortfall

As Lets Recycle acknowledges, if these figures are correct, it suggests that Britain is approximately 10,000 tonnes short of meeting its target to collect 490,000 tonnes of electrical and electronic waste equipment in 2014.
The Environment Agency is now carrying out a full investigation into how the disparity occurred.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the department that oversees WEEE regulations in Britain, told Lets Recycle that the disparity may have been caused due to AATF operators delaying submitted data to the agency.

“We know that some of this variance is down to late or missing returns from AATFs and the remaining variance is being investigated with AATFs as part of the EA’s desktop monitoring prior to final publication of the UK data, which will likely lead to resubmissions of AATF data,” said the spokeswoman.

New WEEE Regulations

The original WEEE Regulations came into force in 2007. However, due to a change in the EU Directive, Britain was required to implement new Regulations by February 2014.

In January this year new WEEE Regulations replaced the old system of ‘evidence trading’, with a system of individual targets being set targets based on the volume of new products members have placed onto the market.
With the new system, rather than purchasing WEEE from other compliance schemes for a potentially exaggerated price, schemes that are unable to meet their targets can choose to pay a ‘compliance fee’.
As the Environmental Agency continues its investigations into the 2014 WEEE target shortfall, we ask what more can be done to help the UK meet its electronic waste recycling targets.

Domestic recording of WEEE

It has been suggested that, with more stringent targets in place, domestic recording of WEEE needs to be considered more carefully. Under current measurement systems, the only WEEE recording is that which goes through ‘official channels’.

However, as Waste Management World suggests, the WEEE Recast aims to address the issue of widening the scope of the WEEE required to report their data to official sources – a modification which could help the UK meet its WEEE targets.

With global operations offering the recovery, processing, sales and distribution of electronic waste, Bamboo Distribution is at the core of the drive to create a more efficient recycling and recovery of consumer electronic waste system.