Shine a light on lamp recycling

With WEEE targets set to rise over coming years, Nigel Harvey urges councils to do more to promote lamp recycling

WEEE has risen up the agenda

WEEE has risen up the agenda

As local authorities face tightened budgets, it can be tempting to deflect resources away from recycling.

But with waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) recycling targets from the EU set to rise and cost-effective recycling options available, the incentive is there to keep recycling high on the agenda.

Earlier this year, changes to the WEEE Directive were finalised at EU level, which will mean that from 2016 member states will be expected to significantly increase the amount of WEEE that they collect for recycling.

Although the UK currently exceeds the annual target of 4kg of WEEE per head of population, the new target is much more ambitious.

From 2016 targets will rise to 45% of the average tonnage of EEE that has been put on the market over the previous three years. This will then jump to 65% by 2019.

As the new targets will apply equally to all WEEE, both domestic and commercial, it will require a joint effort across the supply chain and the wider community to achieve these targets.

There will clearly be a temptation to focus efforts on those categories of waste that deliver the highest tonnages such as large domestic appliances.

But that could mean less attention is focused on waste streams that have lower collection weights - such as fluorescent tubes and energy saving light bulbs.

At the moment consumers can recycle old low-energy light bulbs at the 1,100 household waste recycling centres operated by councils across the UK, or at one of Recolight's 800 additional collection facilities sited at Sainsbury's, Robert Dyas and Homebase. There are also a number of other local authority bring sites.

However, research suggests that some local authorities could do more to encourage recycling among residents.

An audit of council websites has found that 15% do not provide any information about facilities for recycling lighting, or the importance of recycling this hazardous waste stream. Only 10% mention the additional collection facilities set up by Recolight.

More needs to be done to ensure consumers understand that compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) need to be recycled, and councils have a crucial role to play in raising awareness and keeping CFLs out of landfill.

As websites increasingly become the first port of call for residents seeking information, one easy and low-cost way for local authorities to spread the recycling message is to keep website up to date with the latest information on the facilities available, both through the household waste recycling centres and through Recolight and our retail collection partners.

Although the new targets will not come into effect until 2016, the Government is expected to implement new regulations to transpose the updated WEEE Directive in late 2013.

It remains to be seen how the Government will cascade the targets, but a stakeholder consultation is expected in March 2013.

Large retailers will be required to do more to help households recycle WEEE. Retailers with more than 400m2 of floor space dedicated to the sales of electrical equipment will have to collect "very small WEEE" up to 25cm in size, which includes low-energy light bulbs, unless they can show an alternative mechanism that is equally effective.

Recolight is keen to work with local authorities to increase access to recycling facilities and improve the information available to consumers.

The ultimate goal has to be to increase lamp recycling rates so that this this hazardous waste stream is diverted from landfill.

Nigel Harvey is chief executive at Recolight


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