Awaiting the WEEE reform consultation. What we know so far!
The reform of the WEEE regulations will take a different approach to the reform of the packaging regulations to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), as EEE (electrical and electronic equipment) is different to packaging. EEE is typically higher in value and is purchased by consumers occasionally, compared to the higher frequency of packaging purchases. So EEE is thrown away occasionally and can be complicated to recycle, due to the multi-material nature of EEE, but it is important to note that unlike packaging, all WEEE can be recycled.
Why are the WEEE regulations being reformed?
Whilst the existing WEEE regulations do facilitate reducing the environmental impacts caused by end-of life electronic and electrical items, the government are looking to reform the WEEE regulations for several reasons:
- The existing WEEE system does not fully incorporate full net cost principles
- Lack of provisions in the regulations to support the drive towards a circular economy
- There is lack of public awareness and an inconvenience associated with disposal of WEEE, which therefore does not drive circular behaviour
- An estimated 155 kilotonnes of domestic WEEE is disposed of annually by UK households, but even so we are hoarding millions of small electrical appliances in households, weighing around 190,000 tonnes
- Inequality in costs covered by online producers and sellers, compared to traditional routes to market
How will the WEEE regulations be reformed?
The consultation will be split into two parts (A & B):
Part A: will contain formal government proposals that are supported by an impact assessment, which will examine whether there is a need for action/reform and analyse the possible impacts of available solutions. It will cover areas of reform that aim to increase reuse and recycling rates by stepping up takeback obligations of distributors, doorstep WEEE collections, bringing more producers into scope, taking steps to tackle the ‘vape crisis’. Specifically part A will cover the following topics:
- Defining full and fair net cost
- Increasing collections for reuse and recycling through:
- Producer funded and operated household collection service for WEEE (operated by a central body)
- Improved retailer/online seller takeback services
- Obligating online marketplaces for the EEE sold via their marketplace from overseas organisations
- Creating a separate category for vapes
- Alignment of WEEE and Batteries obligations where appropriate
Part B will be more akin to a call for evidence (an information-gathering exercise that seeks expertise from people, organisations, and stakeholders with knowledge of a particular issue), which will explore areas of policy that need strengthening, by asking for views on these topics to make improvements to the proposals. The main area’s part B will explore are
- Investing in better eco-design of EEE, re-use, and drive towards a circular economy
- Driving up collections of B2B WEEE
- Driving treatment standards and greater emphasis on recovery of specific materials, including critical raw materials (CRMs)
- Alternative metrics to measure success of the WEEE regulations e.g. a drop in WEEE that ends up in residual waste/landfill
We can expect the consultation and impact assessment to be published imminently, which will run for 8 – 12 weeks. The government response to the consultation can then be expected in Q4 of 2023 (October – December).
It was noted that the consultation and impact assessment does need to be reviewed and authorised by several parties prior to publication, so any changes requested by the various parties it must pass through could result in delay and a later publication than stated above.
The timeline of the WEEE regulations reform delivery is dependent on when the consultation is launched, when the government response is published, and when the agreed policy measures are regulated and can feasibly be delivered. It has been suggested that some areas of reform can be prioritised for delivery by the end of 2024, with other measures suggested to be delivered from 2026 onwards.
How can you respond to the consultation?
The consultation and impact assessment will be published on the DEFRA website https://consult.defra.gov.uk/ , where you will be able to respond directly. Beyondly will be submitting a response to the consultation and would be keen to hear from all stakeholders. If you would like to respond within Beyondly’s consultation response, please do get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org