Research in the UK indicates ‘a huge gulf’ between the volume of electrical and electronic goods bought by businesses and those processed at end-of-life through approved authorised treatment facilities (AATFs).
The study of flows of business to business (B2B) e-scrap or WEEE was carried out by the Eunomia consultancy for Material Focus, a not-for-profit organisation funded by the WEEE compliance fee under the UK’s extended producer responsibility (EPR) regime.
Eunomia calculates that in 2019 businesses bought 484 000 tonnes of electricals and appliances out of a national total 1.7 million tonnes, of which:
- 108 000 tonnes were recycled by AATFs
- 200 000 tonnes went to the general waste
- 2 000 tonnes were illegally exported
- 5 000 tonnes were fly-tipped
- 109 000 tonnes were recycled with light iron scrap and therefore ‘lost’ to the system.
‘There is a huge gulf between the placed on the market (POM) figures … and the B2B collected and treated via official WEEE EPR routes, ending in treatment at an AATF,’ the report says. ‘This gulf cannot be explained purely by delays between EEE being placed on the market and arising as waste, or reuse, which ultimately has to result in WEEE for recycling or disposal.’
The report concludes that several factors are responsible: large quantities of B2B WEEE not covered by EPR; tonnages going into residual waste; and large quantities going via various routes into scrap metal ‘with the potential for improper or sub-optimal treatment’.
The research highlights insufficient data, from both public sources and held individually by organisations and concludes: ‘There is a clear need to better record, report and manage B2B WEEE, getting it out of residual and scrap metal routes, and bringing it into the formal collection routes and through AATFs for treatment. This would improve environmental outcomes significantly.’
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