£8m compliance fees to boost electronics recycling

More than £8m generated through compliance fees from the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) will be used to fund projects that increase the reuse and recycling of electronic items, the Joint Trade Association (JTA) has confirmed.

The £8m fund will be spread across the next three years, with £1m set aside for research projects, £3m to be invested in behaviour change projects and the remaining £4m to be spent on local projects that boost reuse and recycling.

Some projects already have confirmation of support from the fund, including an assessment of persistent organic pollutants in plastics arising from waste electricals and electronics, led by the ICER.

The JTA’s chair, and head of techUK’s environment and compliance programme Susanne Baker said: “The size of this year’s Fund means that we can make a significant difference to how the UK WEEE regime operates and functions.

“There is no urgency to spend the money quickly, the focus will instead be spending the fund carefully on projects that can deliver genuine and lasting improvements to the system with the buy-in and support from the community of local authorities, businesses and civic society groups that manage and deal with these products at the end of life.”

The WEEE Compliance Fee was established to ensure Producer Compliance schemes can subsidise recycling and collection obligations, on behalf of electronic equipment producers, as an alternative to directly collecting WEEE. If the schemes miss set targets, they pay a compliance fee for the tonnage shortfall.

The £8m generated in 2017 is significantly larger that previous iterations. In 2015, for example, the fund generated just £45,000 to be used for technical research projects.

E-waste mountain

Baker has previously suggested that business investment in digital technologies such as blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can kickstart a resource-efficient economic boom within the UK.

Globally, more than 44 million metric tonnes of electronic waste were generated in 2016, but only 20% has been documented as being collected and recycled, despite having an estimated of $55bn.

Last year, it was revealed that a record 16 million tonnes of electronic trash, containing both toxic and valuable materials, were generated in a single year – up 63% in five years – across Asia.

The Basel Action Network (BAN) has reiterated a plea for electronic companies to publicly publish information on e-waste destinations. This follows an investigation revealing that many discarded electronic items are being exported to Asia for treatment, leading to unsafe labour and environmental conditions in the recipient countries.

Matt Mace

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