Material Focus’s new research, conducted by Ricardo, reviews new metrics which could help and improve the way the UK measures its waste electrical and battery systems.

Currently, the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) regulations require producers to report the weight of the electrical products that they are placing on to the UK market, broken down by category. However, the research identifies that this way of reporting overlooks the importance of circular design, changes in product design from technological advances, and the quality and efficiency of recycling processes and their material outputs.

The regulations are also focused on recycling WEEE at end of life, with limited consideration of other waste reduction options such as repair, reuse, and refurbishment.

New ways to capture data

The report suggests new ways to capture EEE data, to help improve the circularity of the system. The key areas uncovered are:

  • Continue reporting the product weight but collect data on the quantities and more detailed product categories to be used. The report recommends to also collect data on the channel the item is sold through. This will allow the government to have a more comprehensive understanding of the sector.

  • Creating a new national material recovery rate reporting system. This would cover reporting all recovered materials by weight, which are obtained by authorised, approved treatment facilities (AATFs) across the UK. By requesting AATFs to report on these additional data points, there will be a greater understanding of recycling activity. This will incentivise better separation, collection and sorting to focus on valuable raw materials.  

  • Survey to be carried out with members of the public to capture the amount of WEEE and portable batteries that are being hoarded. An item would be defined as being hoarded if it has been stored for more than six months. This is currently difficult to capture and will provide detail on trends in consumer behaviour and awareness, covering why consumers do not dispose of products and how to improve this.

  • Establishing a national system to record the number of UK drop-off points available for used electricals and batteries. Having knowledge of collection availability and what items are underrepresented in drop-off will allow waste management companies and local authorities to improve infrastructure development. It will also hopefully improve access for consumers to recycling services and repair.

You can access the full report here. We would expect these areas to be reviewed in the upcoming WEEE consultation which is due for release in Q2 this year. If you have questions regarding the Material Focus report or the upcoming consultation, please get in touch.