Electronic Waste and the Circular Economy Contents

1Collecting E-waste

25.In this chapter we will examine how the collection, treatment and re-use and recycling of E-waste can be improved as part of the move to a circular economy. At present a significant amount of E-waste goes uncollected or is disposed of incorrectly. Research by Eunomia suggests that the UK is one of the worst in the European Economic Area for official E-waste collection.80 UK households are throwing 155,000 tonnes of waste electricals in general household rubbish bins each year—according to research recently carried out for Material Focus. A further 190,000 tonnes of electrical or electronic equipment is languishing in people’s drawers and cupboards. The cables hoarded in UK homes (140 million) could circle the earth more than five times. And 2.8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions could be saved, equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the road, if all our old small electricals that are being thrown away or hoarded were returned to the economy.81

26.‘Producers’ are considered organisations that either manufacture and sell; resell; import or supply Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) in the UK. They are also responsible for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) under the Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2013 which became law in January 2014 and which were updated in 2018.82 To comply, producers placing more than five tonnes of EEE on the market must join a producer compliance scheme.83 Producer Compliance Schemes (PCS) are separate companies that are tasked with facilitating the collection and recycling of E-waste. Although the number of schemes fluctuates there are currently around 28 in the UK.84 These schemes are set E-waste collection targets linked to the amount of electronics that the producers they represent have placed on the UK market. To meet those targets, they purchase evidence of E-waste collection and treatment from Authorised Approved Treatment Centres (AATFs) which are Environment Agency approved E-waste treatment and recycling centres. PCSs arrange the pick-up and transportation of E-waste from local authority household waste recycling centres (HWRC) for treatment. When the E-waste collection targets are missed, they pay a compliance fee (see below).

Figure 3: Ideal Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) flow in the UK

Figure 4: Sub-optimal Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) flow

Collection targets

27.There are two separate collection targets in the UK, which can lead to some confusion over whether targets are being achieved or not.85 There is a nationwide collection target which, before 2020, was set at 65% of new products put onto the market over the last three years. The 65% target was set by the European Union and rose from 45% in 2018.86 There is also a target for the official collection of E-waste to be funded by producers via producer compliance schemes (which we will return to below). In relation to the former target, DEFRA Minister Rebecca Pow MP told us that:

the UK has done pretty well on its targets. It was 45% of the average tonnage of equipment on the market in the previous four years. That was what the target was, so it was a weight-based target. The UK actually achieved 50% in 2017. That was up 14% from 2014 and in 2018 it will be 54% … Overall, our collection rates have gone up year by year on the WEEE and we are doing pretty well, which is not to say there is not still a great deal more to do.87

28.DEFRA told us that in 2018 the collection rate relating to the first target was 816,397 tonnes or 54% of equipment placed on the UK market taken as an average over the previous three years. Of this 253,726 tonnes was a ‘substantiated’ estimate of waste electronics that were collected, processed and recycled outside of the official electronic waste system, for example by scrap metal recyclers due to the economic value of the parts.88 Much of the waste collected outside the system calculated by these ‘substantiated estimates’ is processed by operators that are not Approved Authorised Treatment Facilities (AATF) by the Environment Agency, so they are not required to monitor their treatment in the same way as official E-waste treatment centres.89

29.The use of substantiated estimates has been criticised during this inquiry for being “educated guess work to meet targets”.90 Using them in decision making is not an approach common in European Economic Area (EEA) countries who follow the same EU Directive, yet have similar unofficial recycling routes. This means that although it appears that the UK performs well compared to other EEA countries, it is only because of these substantiated estimates that it is unique in using.91 Eunomia, a consultancy with specialism in the waste sector, found that without substantiated estimates the actual collection rate in the UK was just 29% in 2018 (the 2019 figures provided by DEFRA are closer to 37%). This means the UK ranks worst amongst the nine EEA countries studied by Eunomia—the next worst E-waste collector was Belgium with 42.6%. Only one EEA country, Sweden, has met the 65% E-waste collection target in recent years.92

30.The system of collection targets in the UK is unclear. National figures on collection rates include a significant amount of estimation about electronics that have been collected in different ways, with no clear understanding as to whether those collected electronics are treated in a high-quality manner. This leads to a perception that all is well compared to other countries that do not use these estimates. We recommend that the Government reconsiders the use of substantiated estimates in the E-waste system when evaluating performance.

31.There is also a target for producer compliance schemes (PCS) set by the Secretary of State for each different WEEE category and apportioned to each PCS depending on the market share of the producers they represent. These targets consider historical trends on collection, the average weight of items placed on the market and those discarded. DEFRA states that for 2020 it was decided that, due to the impact of Covid-19, the targets would “be broadly in line with actual household collections in 2019”.93 In 2019 a total of 494,976 tonnes of WEEE was collected through the UK’s WEEE collection system, missing the DEFRA set 2019 target of 550,577 tonnes for PCSs to collect.94 95 This is the third consecutive year that PCSs have missed their targets.96

Figure 5: WEEE Collection Targets for Producer Compliance Schemes compared to actual amounts collected

Source: Analysis of Environment Agency figures, WEEE collected in the UK, (September 2020).

32.Throughout our inquiry there has been considerable criticism of the target setting for Producer Compliance Schemes. For example in written evidence to us many organisations, including the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the WEEE forum of Producer Compliance Schemes, highlighted doubts over the ‘placed on the market’ figures because they are self-reported by Producer Compliance Schemes, who are incentivised to under-report the figures to reduce the amount of waste they are required to collect.97

33.We have been told that the fact that targets are only set for one year at a time inhibits advanced planning by producers, local authorities or recyclers as to how much E-waste they will be working with.98 Nor does it allow a level of certainty about future flows of waste which would allow recycling and treatment plants to invest and raise finance. 99 Veolia said that this approach lacked ambition.100 The WEEE Scheme Forum said the current system “does not currently deliver the necessary level of certainty, in part because the regulations drive compliance one year at a time”.101 Contributors have told us that this drives a short-term outlook that is having a significant impact on all parts of the system. For example, these yearly targets are reflected in the contracts between Producers and Producer Compliance schemes, local authorities, and recycling plants which are also one year long—something we will return to in chapter 3. REPIC told us:

Producers can move between PCSs annually, and this restricts the ability of PCSs to offer longer term contracts to treatment facilities that could help them underwrite investments.102

34.This short-termism has led contributors to say that this is a “transactional rather than contractual marketplace”103 and that “it detracts from the willingness of both treatment operators and producer compliance schemes to work together to define and justify suitable projects”.104 The CEO of Environcom, the largest privately-owned WEEE recycling business in the UK told us:

… it is very difficult to obtain finance or plan a business beyond a 12-month basis, [that is] ludicrous!105

35.As contributors to this inquiry have stated, long-term, timely guidance and targets with clear milestones can help business adapt, invest and respond correctly by adjusting to clear market signals set by Government.106 Related higher level targets currently in existence include: no waste to landfill by 2050 and the UK’s Net Zero by 2050 target. The current scheme of annual targets does not currently have a clear link to these longer-term goals despite the clear impact the electronics sector and waste industry has on these targets.

36.Targets for producer compliance schemes have been missed over recent years. For 2020 the target has been brought down to match the actual amount collected in 2019 due to the impact of Covid-19. Targets are set annually, which prevents all parties in the system from investing in long term collection and treatment.

37.DEFRA must set long term targets that align with existing commitments like zero waste to landfill. The targets should have milestones at clear intervals, to allow certainty for businesses and investors. They must be set using independently verified data not self-reported data. It must be clear that these are collection targets for both re-use and recycling to prevent recycling being prioritised over keeping valuable EEE in circulation —an area we will return to later in this report.

Increasing the collection of E-waste

Collection methods

38.Under the UK WEEE regulations there are different methods for the collection of E-waste in the UK which include:

a)Designated Collection Facilities (DCFs) located at Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) or Civic Amenity (CA) sites operated by Waste Disposal Authorities;

b)Regulation 50 collections set up by Producer Compliance Schemes (PCSs) which include kerbside and bulky waste collections operated by Local Authority Waste Collection Authorities and often then taken to HWRCs;

c)Regulation 43 collections which is better known as retailer take-back of E-waste from consumers. This is what is called one-for-one, like-for-like take-back. When somebody buys a new product, retailers offer to take back a similar type of old product for treatment and recycling.107 108 109

The system in the UK is dominated by the public dropping off electronic waste at DCFs (see figure 6). Changing this dominance will be important to improving E-waste collection (see consumer awareness below).

Figure 6: Collection methods for Electronic Waste in the UK

Source: AATF Forum, Written Evidence to the EAC, (EWa0018); Environment Agency, household and non-household Electrical and Electronic Equipment placed on the market by members of Producer Compliance Schemes, (June 2020)

Improving E-waste collection

39.Several contributing factors were cited as reasons for PCS targets being missed:

The compliance fee

40.The compliance fee aspect of the system has come into criticism for allowing Producer Compliance Schemes (PCSs) to ignore expensive-to-recycle or hard-to-collect electronic waste by instead allowing them to pay a lower fee.110 The system allows PCSs to pay the compliance fee instead of (a) paying for the collection of E-waste or (b) purchasing evidence of collection from other actors in the system who have collected it. There is a market for E-waste collection and treatment evidence notes, so the compliance fee effectively puts a cap on the price of evidence being traded and prevents the collection of any E-waste if it costs more than the compliance fee. If a PCS has collected more than required tonnage at the end of the year, it has no evidence value beyond the compliance fee and the PCS is often left with the costs it has incurred collecting that extra E-waste.111

41.In our second hearing Louise Grantham, representing producer compliance schemes in the WEEE Scheme Forum told us that the cost calculated by this methodology in recent years has been based on the cost of collecting from local authority household waste collection centres and treating WEEE at treatment facilities.112 Contributors such as Veolia,113 the National Association of Waste Disposal officers114 and others told us that the compliance fee system is a significant contributor to the UK’s low E-waste collection. Phil Conran, Chairman of the AATF Forum representing Electronic Waste treatment facilities, and a witness in our second hearing stated that:

The shortfall in waste collected is largely due to the compliance fee mechanism which has enabled producer compliance schemes to meet targets without physically collecting material.115 116

Free riding by online retailers and marketplaces

42.For much of what is sold on their online marketplaces, Amazon, Ebay and others are considered neither a producer nor a retailer (as often items sold on them are sold by a third party). Only around 50% of Amazon’s sales are direct, for the other 50% of sales it acts as a marketplace for third party sellers.117 It is likely that the contractual arrangement between online marketplaces and the overseas supplier is such that the supplier is responsible for the import of the product and delivery through to the online platform’s warehouse. This is despite the fact that “most of the products are available for next day delivery in the UK”, even if producers and retailers selling on Amazon in the UK “are mainly based in China”.118 Consequently, while the sale is being made through the online platform, and fulfilled via their warehouse, the legal responsibility still lies with the overseas supplier for both contributing to the electronic waste system and for safety.119

43.For this reason, online marketplaces are currently not liable to contribute to PCSs for products sold by these third-party sellers on their platform, which is becoming an increasingly large proportion of electronics sold in this country. Yet Eunomia points out that online marketplaces host thousands of unregistered sellers, predominantly from overseas.120 Therefore, other, legitimately registered producers must contribute financially to dealing with E-waste arising from products sold on online marketplaces. Recolight has stated that this gives online marketplaces “significant competitive advantage” that is adding pressure on those small producers and retailers already impacted by Covid-19, who are taking responsibility for safety and waste - risking business failure and job losses.121 Robert ter Kuile from Amazon explained to us how its compliance structure works:

We have three basic business models: Amazon retail, in which we are the producer and seller of the products; our fulfilment by Amazon, so FBA, where we provide a service to sellers and retailers; and our merchant fulfilment network, or MFN. Products that are within the FBA or the MFN on the online marketplace are the responsibility of those sellers and producers under the current EPR [Extended Product Responsibility] mechanisms that are in place.122

He added that:

…one of the challenges that we have since we are not a regulatory enforcement body is actually knowing if somebody is registered or not. Some of the items that you will find on our website may have been purchased by a seller and the fee was already paid by whoever they purchased it from and they are simply putting it into the market with the fee already paid. Some of them may be registered; you find a different name on the website versus the registration that has already been placed with the EPR schemes. When we have had non-compliant sellers flagged to us, we take that very seriously and we perform our own research and investigation, notifying the sellers.123

44.Online marketplaces also give rise to concerns around product safety. Martyn Allen gave evidence to the inquiry about safety concerns exacerbated during the Covid-19 crisis:124

Time and time again we see things that are deemed to be substandard, or counterfeit, or even on recall, on online marketplaces, and increasingly so in particular during the current situation where until recently all the shops have been closed and almost all of our retail has been done online…The marketplaces see themselves as outside of the product safety regulatory system. They do not consider themselves to be retailers; they are just facilitators of that trade. That needs to end. They need to be brought into that process and be accountable for some of the products that they are allowing to be sold by their third-party sellers.125

45.Amazon said that recycling compliance could be simplified across Europe by allowing online marketplaces to report and remit Extended Product Responsibility fees on behalf of sellers.126 The WEEE Producer Compliance scheme Recolight sent us a submission drawing attention to the scale of WEEE non-compliance through online marketplaces.127 It argued that the Simplified Compliance Model, proposed by Amazon, could result in the transfer of more market power and control to online marketplaces:

That is because it would reduce both WEEE costs and WEEE administration for those producers selling exclusively through Amazon. In short, producers would be commercially incentivised to move all their sales to online marketplaces.128

46.Recolight said that under any revised EPR scheme (see below) producers should incur the same charges, whether they sell exclusively via an online marketplace, or whether they sell via other channels.129

47.Perhaps the most significant steps taken towards addressing the issue of online marketplaces facilitating free-riding of waste and safety obligations is found in France. In 2019 it announced new obligations for online platforms as part of the French Circular Economy Roadmap. These obligations require online multi-seller platforms such as Amazon to ensure that the collection and recycling of WEEE arising from products marketed and sold on such websites is properly financed. The online platforms will, by default, be held responsible if they cannot prove that a business that sells a product on their site makes an ‘eco-contribution’. It is not yet clear how effectively this law will be enforced.130

48.A different solution highlighted by the WEEE scheme forum of Producer Compliance Schemes (PCSs) is an approach that DEFRA consulted on in relation to packaging in March 2019, but has not yet followed up. This approach stated that online marketplaces should take legal responsibility of the packaging of products for which they facilitate the import into the UK by creating a new class of producer. This could be applied to electronics. The WEEE Scheme forum said that it would be less burdensome and more achievable for regulators to monitor online marketplaces than overseas producers. It would also close what producer compliance schemes consider a current loophole, which allows companies based overseas to register as a small producer, regardless of the tonnage of EEE they supply and thus contribute significantly less to the waste producers by their products.131

49.Recolight stated that there is some urgency here because Covid-19 has accelerated the competitive advantage of online market-places and that:

If the current timetable for the WEEE regulations to be updated is maintained, the situation will not improve until 2024. That may be too late for many producers.132

Consumer awareness

50.Consumer awareness was cited as a key factor limiting the collection of small electronic waste—such as toasters or hairdryers. Research indicates that large quantities of these small items are being disposed of incorrectly in household bins.133 A 2019 report by the Material Change Fund found that a significant proportion of householders were unaware of how they could recycle electrical items.134 Eunomia’s report stated that high performing countries place significant emphasis on the role of communication campaigns and activities to support WEEE collection efforts. For example, improvements in small WEEE collection across France have been largely attributed to targeted communication campaign efforts and investment—with small WEEE collection increasing 18.4% between 2013 and 2014, and by 23.7% between 2010 and 2014. French PCSs must allocate at least 0.3% of their income to national information campaigns.135 Viridor has stated that public understanding of the issues with electronic waste are poor due to a lack of consistency of collection throughout the country. It stated that:

As with other parts of the recycling system, the lack of a national consistent system of household collections make communicating challenging. Recycling services, on the whole, have seen cuts, particularly in communications, but also with HWRCs opening for fewer hours.136

51.The lack of consistency is exacerbated by the inconvenience citizens face if they try to dispose of E-waste in the right way. Though the UK collects most of its electronic waste at Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs)137 it is also the European country with the least HWRCs per inhabitant and one of lowest per 1000 km2. Eunomia report that while the UK has at least one HWRC in most sizeable towns these are mostly out of town and only accessible by car.138 Research found that drop-off of waste by residents at local authority collection centres (including HWRCs and Civic Amenity sites) is the E-waste collection method that causes the highest carbon emissions and has the highest operation costs.139

Retailer take-back

52.Ireland has very similar numbers of HWRCs by population and area to the UK. However, in 2015 Ireland deemed that this low level of HWRC infrastructure was not sufficient to meet its targets and so has instead focused on retailer take-back for electronics. It is now the highest collector of waste via retailers with approximately 56% of the E-waste collected taken via this route.140 141 DEFRA has announced that after 31st December 2020 large retailers will be obliged to offer to take back an item when a consumer buys a new similar item in store. It will apply to all retailers and wholesalers with annual sales of electrical items above £100,000 and so will apply to almost all retailers with a physical premise.142 143 However online marketplaces, such as Amazon, will not have a similar requirement to collect directly from consumers for at least another year (until 31 December 2021).144 Even after December 2021 it is not clear whether online retailers will have to collect E-waste on delivery as they may instead allow customers to drop off E-waste at their warehouses and sites—which are often very inaccessible. This requirement on bricks and mortar establishments and not online retailers could further entrench the competitive advantage of online retailers if their exemption is extended beyond one year.145

53.Retailer take-back can be very convenient for people, especially when they order something online and their old product is collected in return. This is a model used by AO.com.146 DixonsCarphone go a step further and allow anybody to hand-over waste electronics to them regardless of purchase at their stores and they will also collect any small mixed E-waste on delivery of larger products to households. The latter initiative started at the end of 2018 and has driven DixonsCarphone’s small mixed WEEE collection up by 200% year on year. As DixonsCarphone often manufacture or import electronics this also helps them to meet their producer obligations. Amazon have expressed safety concerns about this method. However, to overcome this DixonsCarphone trains staff and allows them to reject waste if it looks unsafe.147

54.The London Waste and Recycling Board supported the claim that items collected via retailer take back schemes have a much higher rate of reuse than other methods.148 149 Research shows that this is because consumers have more trust in high street retailer brands to handle their data securely.150 TechUK, which represents the UK’s technology industry, also told us that they support a move towards more retailer take-back.151 Universal retailer take-back could improve consistency and allow easier communication with consumers and the public about what to do with E-waste.152

Mandatory kerbside collection

55.Kerbside collection of E-waste around the country could also help improve the consistency of collection and make communications with the public easier.153 The Environment Bill requires six recyclable waste streams that must be separately collected from all households and businesses for recycling or composting, yet electronic waste is not one of them.154 Including E-waste whilst ensuring collection can be for re-use, could ensure a consistent system which is easy to communicate to households. Minister Pow indicated that despite E-waste not being named specifically, the Bill does give powers to mandate kerbside collection through statutory instruments.155 The National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO)156 representing local authorities suggested that E-waste should be included in this core set of materials to be collected at kerbside. This is because it is the most cost-effective solution, especially for smaller electrical items like hairdryers and toasters that may otherwise end up in the residual waste stream.157 158

56.However, NAWDO were clear, along with a similar body, the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC), that in line with the current system of producer responsibility for waste, the full cost of this should be met by producers, not by local authorities themselves. They also emphasised that the solution was to have a mixture of collection methods, not just one.159

57.A review of sustainable WEEE collection methods—which considered the convenience for residents as well as the collection costs and vehicles emissions—found kerbside collection of WEEE, at the same time as other waste pick-up, reduced emission levels associated with collection. The study showed that the cost of pick up decreased over time; and the potential income from the sale of WEEE components would additionally offset its cost.160

Designing a new Extended Producer Responsibility scheme

58.The current UK approach to dealing with E-waste is classed as a Producer Responsibility (PR) scheme.161 Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a policy approach that can be used to ‘price in externalities’162 (i.e. the side-effects that businesses and their products have on the wider world—in this case those outlined in the introduction) and further shift the end-of-life cost burden away from taxpayers to producers and by extension direct consumers.163 In December 2018, the Government published Our Waste, Our Resources: A Strategy for England—often simply referred to as the Resources and Waste Strategy.164 The strategy promised a consultation, originally due by the end of 2020, on the reform of WEEE regulations including on the potential for a new EPR scheme.165

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies place some responsibility for a product’s end-of-life environmental impacts on the original producer and seller of that product. In theory EPR schemes are supposed to make producers meet the environmental costs of their products and also provide incentives for them to make design changes to products that would reduce waste management costs. Those changes could include improving product recyclability and reusability, reducing material usage and downsizing products, and engaging in a host of other so called ‘design for environment’ (DfE) activities.166

59.The Environment Bill has begun to implement the Resources and Waste Strategy. It has made an EPR for packaging the first priority, but the Bill also gives Ministers the power to establish new EPRs for other waste streams in the future and set financial incentives (or reduced ‘modulated’ fees) for producers as part of these schemes.167 There are some key principles involved in EPR:

60.At our first hearing, Professor Tim Cooper from Nottingham Trent University, explained that the both EU and DEFRA are considering introducing variable EPR fees (known as modulated fees) in order to encourage eco-design:

There’s been a lot of criticism over the past decade or so that the secondary aim of the [EU’s original waste] legislation [ … ] to encourage the redesign of products, has not actually occurred significantly as a result of the directive. So, at present, the Commission is looking at, and DEFRA for that matter, are looking at ways to adapt legislation through what are called modulated fees. Broadly speaking, the aim of those modulated fees would be to reward producers, manufactures and importers, who produce goods that are more recyclable, more durable and more repairable and the detail of that of course is highly complex and still subject to discussion.168

61.The waste policy consultancy Eunomia says that Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) has the potential to be a key mechanism to support the move towards a circular economy, but it cautions that an EPR scheme must be designed carefully with the right incentives for the relevant market participants.169 We heard during the inquiry that EPR schemes introduced in the past have failed to live up to the promised potential of this policy. The Basel Action Network’s Jim Puckett warned that the way EPRs have been implemented had failed to move beyond promoting recycling to incentivise eco-design and reduce waste:

EPR is one way that people have thought of to try to internalise costs and to keep things out of the landfill, but again it is so focused on recycling, sadly. When it was originally designed it was meant to drive green design but, unfortunately, with the way it has been implemented, that has not taken place. We can modify EPR—we can tweak it so that it does more for green design and we can make it more individualised to give a competitive advantage to companies that pursue green design—but [ … ] we are not going to be able to recycle our way out of our waste crisis.170

62.Manufacturers were sceptical about the ability of EPR and modulated fees to incentivise sustainability in product design. Kevin Considine from Samsung maintained that design regulations were the most appropriate mechanism:

Eco-design provides the right platform to influence product design, and the European eco-design requirements are setting design standards for the rest of the globe. I am a bit concerned about looking at extending producer responsibility as the mechanism to try to influence product design, because I simply think it won’t work.171

63.Andrew Mullen from Beko said:

Given we are all global and European manufacturers, eco-design within the European regulatory framework is really important. I think using EPR to drive eco-design, particularly given how recycling currently works in the UK, is going to present a challenge.172

International harmonisation

64.Stakeholders stressed the importance of incentives being harmonised internationally given the global nature of the electronics industry. Amazon said that the fact that implementation of EU product recycling directives is not harmonised across product categories and countries, creates:

…disproportionate complexity especially for small and medium sized sellers. Currently, a seller shipping a single item into all EU countries would be required to register, report, and pay registration fees in nearly all 28 jurisdictions, under more than 60 different regimes for electronics, batteries and packaging.173

65.The industry body Tech UK said that the introduction of modulated fees for all products covered by producer responsibility legislation in the EU “could provide additional design incentives if introduced intelligently.”174 It believes that “a harmonised approach with Europe would strengthen the fiscal design signal sent to global manufacturers of electronics.”175 Susanne Baker told us that:

If modulated fees are going to have any impact on the design of electronics they have to be harmonised internationally. We would recommend DEFRA puts off making a decision until the European Commission publishes its guidelines for member states in December. Equally, we are also very supportive of continuing to align with Europe on eco-design standards.176

66.Louise Grantham from the WEEE Scheme Forum told us:

… although obviously we are outside the EU, one thing for producers that is quite important is that they do manufacture for global markets, so a system that required them to take different approaches towards product design, durability and so on that was different to perhaps EU countries would cause issues. I think that is quite an important consideration to bear in mind when we are designing a new EPR system.177

67.DEFRA told us that its consultations on producer responsibility reform will be published in stages throughout 2021. It will first publish a consultation on extended producer responsibility for packaging, followed by a consultation on reviewing the WEEE Regulations later in the year.178

68.Our inquiry has heard that making official collection routes for the public easy and consistent is key to ensuring products are correctly re-used, repaired and recycled. Retailer take-back is an effective method, so we welcome the Government requirement for large physical retailers to offer this service. However, this further tilts an unequal playing fields away from physical stores towards online retailers and marketplaces who do not have this obligation. Our high streets are under severe pressure and current regulations, coming into force from 2021, could unfairly entrench the competitive advantage of online retailers and marketplaces like Amazon. As a matter of urgency and at the latest by the end of 2021 online retailers and marketplaces must have an equal obligation to collect electronic waste from customers.

69.To prevent a potential loophole with take-back being offered only at remote, inconvenient warehouses, the regulations should follow the exemplary innovation shown by AO.com and DixonsCarphone. Online retailers and marketplaces for electrical and electronic equipment must arrange and pay for the collection of like-for-like electronics from customer’s homes on delivery of new electronics. They must also offer to collect any electronic waste defined as “small” at the same time.

70.A mixture of collection types is needed to tackle the significant E-waste collection challenges. As well as Retailer Take-back, kerbside collection has been shown to be very effective and easy for the public to hand-over their electronics cost-effectively and with limited damage to the environment. The Government must make this mandatory for local authorities, with the cost paid for by producers and those smaller retailers or online marketplaces still exempt from collecting E-waste directly from the public.

71.An Extended Producer Responsibility scheme could be used to incentivise the very best practice in circular low-carbon product design. However, care must be taken to put circular economy principles at the heart of the policy and efforts made to harmonise it with wider efforts internationally. In any future producer responsibility system online marketplaces like Amazon should be responsible for ensuring that all EEE that is sold on their platforms is fully compliant with the law. Furthermore, producers should be required to pay exactly the same fees and follow the same rules selling online as they do offline. The Government should explain how it will address all of these concerns when it publishes its consultation on new E-waste regulations in 2021.

72.In the following sections we will be making recommendations about areas that should be included in an EPR system to incentivise good practice.

80 Eunomia report for DEFRA, Electrical and Electronic Equipment, (6 January 2020) p 114.

81 Material Focus press release, UK residents could save the economy over £370 million by recycling their old electricals, (24 June 2020), [accessed 10 November 2020].

84 Mr Adrian Hawkes, (EWa0013)

86 letsrecycle.com, Defra slashes WEEE collection targets, (10 March 2020), [accessed 10 October 2020].

88 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, (EWa0010).

89 Eunomia report for DEFRA, Electrical and Electronic Equipment, (6 January 2020), p 40.

90 Ecosurety, (ELE0036).

91 Eunomia report for DEFRA, Electrical and Electronic Equipment, (6 January 2020), p 114.

92 Eunomia report for Defra, Electrical and Electronic Equipment, (January 2020).

93 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, (EWa0025).

94 letsrecycle.com, Defra slashes WEEE collection targets, (10 March 2020), [accessed 10 November 2020).

95 Environment Agency, WEEE collected in the UK [accessed March 2020].

96 letsrecycle.com, Defra slashes WEEE collection targets, (10 March 2020), [accessed 10 November 2020).

97 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, (EWa0010).

98 Q41.

99 E.g Mr Adrian Hawkes (EWa0013), Environcom (EWa0029).

100 Veolia, (ELE0042).

101 WEEE Scheme Forum, (ELE0025).

102 REPIC, (ELE0027).

103 Environcom, (EWa0029).

104 Mr Adrian Hawkes, (EWa0013).

105 Environcom, (ELE0006).

106 WEEE Scheme Forum, (ELE0025), Comply Direct Ltd, (ELE0039), Ecosurety, (ELE0035).

107 WRAP, WEEE collection guide, (22 February 2018), [accessed 10 October 2020].

108 AATF Forum, (EWa0018)

109 Q52.

110 For example: see Veolia, (ELE0042).

111 Eunomia report for DEFRA, Electrical and Electronic Equipment, (6 January 2020), p 17.

112 Q42.

113 Veolia, (ELE0042).

114 Q2.

116 AATF Forum, (ELE0051).

118 Letsrecycle.com, Retailers disappointed by Defra WEEE decision, (3 January 2020), [accessed 19.10.2020].

121 Recolight ltd, (EWa0027).

126 Amazon, EPR policy brief, (2019).

127 Recolight Ltd, (EWa0027).

128 Recolight Ltd, (EWa0027).

129 Recolight Ltd, (EWa0027).

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134 Scott Butler, (EWa0019).

135 Eunomia report for DEFRA, Electrical and Electronic Equipment, (6 January 2020).

136 Viridor, (ELE0018), p 3.

139 Nowakowski et al., Towards sustainable WEEE collection and transportation methods in circular economy - Comparative study for rural and urban settlements, Resources, Conservation and Recycling (2018), 135, pp. 93–107.

141 Dixons Carphone Plc, (ELE0010).

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147 Dixons Carphone Plc, (ELE0010).

148 Dixons Carphone Plc, (ELE0010).

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151 Q96.

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153 Viridor, (ELE0018), p 3.

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156 NAWDO is the primary network for senior waste managers at local authorities with statutory responsibility for waste disposal. They represent over 80% of local authorities in the UK.

157 NAWDO, (ELE0009), p 2.

158 Q31.

159 Q31.

160 Nowakowski et al., Towards sustainable WEEE collection and transportation methods in circular economy - Comparative study for rural and urban settlements, Resources, Conservation and Recycling (2018), 135, pp. 93–107.

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162 Q69.

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165 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Our Waste, Our Resources: A Strategy for England, (December 2018).

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168 Q15.

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170 Q69.

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175 Tech UK, (ELE0044).

177 Q63.

178 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, (EWa0025).

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