New requirement for large retailers to physically take back WEEE from 2021

Following a decision from Rebecca Pow, the Recycling Minister, from 2021 large retailers will be required to take back waste electrical and electronic equipment in-store.

Whilst no immediate action is required, large retailers* need to be aware a change is on the horizon and they will need to plan accordingly for this.

The final phase of the Distributor Take-back Scheme (DTS) ended in 2019. The DTS enabled retailers to pay a fee to cover their obligations to take back waste electrical equipment. By subscribing to the DTS, retailers avoided having to physically take back waste electrical equipment. A new phase of the DTS has been approved until December 2021, but will only apply to large retailers until December 2020 so they won't have the option to join the DTS from 1 January 2021.

Smaller stores and online retailers can continue to be members of the scheme until December 2021.

From January 2021, large retailers will be obliged to take back an item when a consumer buys a new similar item. In line with the current WEEE Regulations, the retailer is required to provide this service to everyone for free, regardless of whether they’ve bought anything from their store. The take back could be via a collection scheme, such as collection on delivery with large domestic appliances.

However, as mentioned above, if a company does not have a physical presence in the form of a store and only sell online, then the obligatory in-store take back from January 2021 is not applicable to them; they can continue being a member of the current DTS scheme until December 2021.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have explained that the decision was made in the context of the need for new approaches being required to meet more ambitious and challenging collection targets.

Monies from the DTS currently goes to fund projects run by local authorities aiming to develop best practice and increase collection, reuse and recycling of WEEE. There will be implications for local authorities which receive funds when large retailers leave the DTS.

If you have any queries at this stage or want to determine if your business will be affected from 2021, please contact, or your Account Manager directly if you are a member of our scheme, and we will endeavour to advise as best we can with the information we have available to us currently, to support your company with planning for this legislative change.

*In terms of in-store take back, Environment Agency guidance states that a 'large retailer' is a company with an electrical and electronic equipment sales area greater than 400 square metres including aisle, display and shelf space.