Resource security ambitions hinge on WEEE success

Tighter controls on e-waste are urgently required if the Government's Resource Action Plan is to deliver on its ambitions, industry leaders have said.

The plan, published earlier today (March 16), sets out a framework for boosting the recovery and reuse of rare earth metals from waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

As part of this, a materials flow analysis will be mapped out across the UK to identify WEEE ‘hot spots’ in key product categories, which WRAP will lead on.

WRAP will also conduct demonstration trials to highlight the recovery potential of critical materials through the WEEE treatment process.

However some feel the legislation surrounding the WEEE Directive isn’t robust enough to support this work and needs to be tightened.

One area of concern is producer responsibility – under the plan, the Government has pledged to investigate the feasibility of applying the principle of individual producer responsibility more generally to the WEEE system.

According to WEEE charity Computer Aid, major technology manufacturers need to be made more accountable for e-waste costs. It wants to see laws be put in place to ensure firms “deal with the consequences” of unwanted equipment.

While many producers operate takeback schemes to help combat the problem, Computer Aid’s chief executive Tom Davis said more could be done to ensure that technology companies were “good corporate citizens”.

Meanwhile Sean Feeney, CEO at WEEE recycler EnvironCom, suggested that consumer-facing incentives might help to drive greater recovery levels and material quality.

“These items need to be properly collected and recycled here in the UK, to ensure both the quantity and quality of feedstock is available to companies like ours,” he said.

CIWM chief executive Steve Lee welcomed the plan, but felt more needed to be done and tweeted that a “hard look at WEEE” was required. On the issue of material flows he added that the waste sector “needs to think out its role”.

Maxine Perella

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