WEEE protocols set basis for evidence calculations

Protocols to allow firms treating waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) to calculate recycling rates for different types of equipment were issued by the Environment Department (DEFRA) in April.1

The WEEE Directive subdivides electrical and electronic equipment into ten categories: large household appliances, small household appliances, IT and telecoms, consumer items, lighting, tools, toys and leisure equipment, medical devices, monitoring instruments, and automatic dispensers.

From 1 July, producers must meet targets for the reuse/recycling and the recovery of each of these categories of equipment except medical devices. There is also a separate reuse/recycling target for gas discharge lamps.

In the UK, the treatment and reprocessing costs will be calculated on the basis of five categories set out in the government’s WEEE collection code of practice: cooling appliances containing refrigerants, large household appliances not containing refrigerants, equipment containing cathode ray tubes (CRTs), gas discharge lamps and all other WEEE. These were set to give councils the smallest number of separate collection containers at civic amenity sites, while segregating equipment with distinct treatment needs.

A key issue has been how to apportion the recycling and recovery of the mixed WEEE in the last collection category to various recycling and recovery targets. To complicate matters further, some WEEE is mixed with other waste, such as scrap cars, before it is recycled at shredder plants.

To reduce the need for excessive measurement and reporting by approved authorised treatment facilities (AATFs) - the sites that can issue evidence of recovery and recycling to producers - government-sponsored trials at several recycling plants were carried out to provide data for estimation tools, or "protocols". Guidance issued by the Department of Trade and Industry earlier this year confirmed that these protocols will be used to estimate the amount of material entering recycling sites that is deemed to be from WEEE from an AATF (ENDS Report 386, pp 40-41 ).

A number of protocols have been developed:

  • A protocol based on the proportions of WEEE Directive categories and non-WEE within mixed WEEE loads (see table 1).

    This includes smaller "large household appliances" that householders can take to CA sites themselves and deposit in collection containers for mixed WEEE.

  • Protocols based on the proportions of metals, plastics and other materials within each WEEE category present within a typical mixed load. Protocols are not provided for lighting, toys and leisure equipment or monitoring equipment due to low volumes arising in the trials.
  • Separate protocols for large white goods, fridges, CRT television and CRT computer monitors.
  • A protocol for materials in a typical load of mixed WEEE based on the proportion of metals, plastics, other materials and printed circuit boards within each category (see table 2). These figures represent the maximum recovery rates that can be claimed for each material from mixed WEEE loads as evidence of compliance.
  • Meanwhile, the DTI has issued guidance on its website clarifying the roles of local authorities,2 producer compliance schemes3 and retailers,4 or "distributors" as they are known under the regime.

    Authorities wishing to register their CA sites as designated collected facilities (DCFs) and qualify for funding from the distributor take-back scheme, were required to do so by 4 May. But because too few were expected to do so, the guidance says there will now be two further registration opportunities this year.

    Confusingly, the DTI says councils that do establish DCFs "should" only allow existing WEEE collection arrangements to remain in place "with the agreement of producer compliance schemes". This will not please any waste management company that collects WEEE but has not established its own compliance scheme.

    Where sufficient space is available at a CA site for the separate collection of all five collection categories of WEEE but the authority is collecting fewer than five, the site operator will be asked to explain why this is the case when applying for DCF status.

    Because consumers are unlikely to take old appliances to stores, retailers opting to offer in-store take-back instead of joining the distributor take-back scheme are asked to allow a "reasonable time limit after a replacement item is purchased when it will be accepted by your staff".

    The costs of transporting WEEE from stores to producer compliance schemes or an AATF working on its behalf must be borne by the retailer.

  • Regulations that came into force on 25 April raised the initial registration fee from £265 to £495 for sites in England and Wales notifying repair or storage operations as an exempt activity.5 The renewal registration fee of £265 is unchanged.
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