Concerns have been raised over the UK’s ability to meet collection targets for waste electrical goods, in light of recycling firm Sims Recycling Solutions’ pending withdrawal from the market.
The company announced last week it is to restructure a large proportion of its WEEE recycling assets in the UK which it had claimed had become commercially unattractive because of “legislation and market dynamics”.
It is likely this will result in the closure of a number of plants, although Sims is to keep its fridge recycling facility at Newport open.
The company has a large proportion of the UK’s WEEE processing capacity, with eight facilities operating in the UK amounting to a total capacity of around 150,000 tonnes per year, roughly 25% of the UK’s overall capacity.
Its likely withdrawal from the market has now lead to some concerns the UK might not be able to generate enough evidence to meet its 490,000 tonne recycling target by the end of 2014.
The Environment Agency has begun canvassing schemes to monitor whether fallout of the withdrawal of capacity by Sims will lead to some schemes failing to meet their 2014 obligations.
Sims’ announcement that it is to withdraw from the market comes after the release of the collection figures for the first three months of the year, which showed the UK is currently collecting a lower volume of WEEE than it will need to meet its overall 2014 collection target.
Some had claimed that the collection volumes, which are lower than levels seen at the same period during the previous year, were to be expected as lightweighting of products means the overall weight of available WEEE is likely to decrease.
And, while the figures were noted as “encouraging” by BIS, compliance scheme Electrolink has questioned whether the figures can be viewed as positive, as the data can be seen to suggest the sector is currently off track to meet its target.
“The data issued showed that we were behind 2013 and the concern is that we have to collect a greater amount. If Sims is going to pull out that is going to become even more challenging,” said Lynne Cullis, chief operating officer for Electrolink.
Electrolink is also questioning how much evidence has been issued since the introduction of new WEEE regulations, which are designed to make it cheaper for producers of electrical goods to fund the recycling of their products at the end of life. The regulations came into effect in January 2014.
The compliance scheme is calling for the release of figures that would reveal the amount of evidence issued against the material collected for recycling by treatment facilities, which it suggests would show a bigger disparity between the amount of WEEE collected and that financed by producers.
Cullis added: “We cannot keep our fingers crossed and hope the targets will be met. We need to accept that the figures are disappointing and take action to make sure the targets are met and the new WEEE regime does not fall apart in its first year.”