Posted on EA clarifies position on hazardous nature of WEEE plastic

The WEEE Compliance Fee generated an £8m pot from the 2017 compliance year and a further £3m from 2018. The Compliance Fee fund is administered through the Joint Trades Association. A number of projects funded by the Fee have already been undertaken including a project to analyse the presence of Persistent Organic Pollutants in WEEE plastic. POPs thresholds have recently been the subject of extensive discussion in Europe with agreement to lower the POPs thresholds to levels that are below what has been commonly used in the past as flame retardants. This means that many older items contain POPs that effectively render them hazardous.

The EA recently presented their position (ICER event presentation) in the light of this evidence with clarification on the EWC codes and disposal routes that must now be applied. In basic terms, it means that plastics in Small Mixed WEEE, Cathode Ray Tube TVs and screens and Flat Screen TVs and screens can no longer be recycled without separation treatment and POPs-containing plastic must be incinerated. With the lack of appropriate capacity in the UK, it is likely to mean that treatment facilities producing this type of waste will have to export under notification procedures to take advantage of high-temprature incineration plants in Europe. This will have major implications due to the cost of this process and the delays in getting notications approved.

This adds significant cost to the treatment of WEEE and which is already being reflected in costs to producers under their WEEE Regulations responsibilities.

At this stage, the EA is primarily focussing on those treating these WEEE streams. However, it could also widely impact on collection operations as certain WEEE types that were not previously considered to be hazardous – such as printers, PC base units – will have to be collected under hazardous waste consignment procedures.

All operators managing WEEE will now have to understand the implications on the handling of WEEE, their environmental permits and their methods of disposal of their output. There will also need to be a clear understanding of the impact on recycling rates with the potential that some target rates may now not be achievable.

There is also concern over the impact this may have on reuse as POPs regulations prevent items containing POPs being put back into the market. Further guidance is awaited on this from the EA.

All members of the AATF Forum have committed to implementing the changes required for the treatment of recovered plastics from the affected SMW and Display streams with immediate effect and to work with the Agencies to ensure that disruption at local authority sites is minimised.