Our thoughts on the recent WEEE (waste electrical) reform

It was great to see many of you using the explainer doc that we shared! If you responded, please do let us know, if you haven’t already!

I’m copying this across from a linked in post.

Good to see Philip Dunne of the Environmental Audit Committee calling out the government’s inaction to tackle our ‘e-waste tsunami’. https://lnkd.in/eTTrAiQf

It’s well understood throughout the waste sector that we need to do more to keep things in use for longer. Through repairing the things we own, reusing the things we don’t need any more, and building business models like leasing and rental, to shift away from buying new stuff all the time.

But after waiting 3 years for proposals to reform the WEEE (electrical waste) system post-Brexit, the suggestions focused almost entirely on making tweaks to the current, recycling dominated, system.

The Call for Evidence that accompanied the WEEE consultation was better. We were encouraged to see a few of our policies explored:
:hammer_and_pick: Reuse targets (this means waste companies get more ‘points’ for reusing or reselling products than for recycling them).
:label: Eco labelling on products (we are big fans of the French repair index, which helps consumers choose more repairable products).
:wastebasket: A ban on the destruction of unsold goods ( that this is even happening is​:scream:).

Don’t get me wrong, the suggestions in the WEEE reform (the one that focused on recycling) are better than nothing. We absolutely should be making sure that electricals are being collected to avoid them going to landfill or incineration. And those complaining about requirements for retailers to take back electricals without charge (AKA the ‘toaster tax’) seem to fundamentally misunderstand the point of the producer pays principal.

But we could be doing so much more. Why put all this effort into tweaking a system that favours one of the least efficient forms of waste management?

Improving collections of e-waste through household collections and retailer take back schemes is a perfect opportunity to retain value in products, and minimise damage in transit. But only if reuse of these products is prioritised and central to the design of these systems. Expanding collection systems without reuse targets is a missed opportunity.

Tackling the e-waste Tsunami is no small job, and it can’t be done through small tweaks to an imperfect system. Will the Call for Evidence lead to a more strategic approach to keeping electricals in use for longer? We shall see, let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another 3 years to find out.


Having experienced WEEE first hand, it is a very poor version of a function that will actually reduce waste.

Like so much in our space it is a legacy approach that has evolved slightly. It is akin to a old-school scrap yard being the future of materials recycling. It comes from a different time when lip-service was paid to environmental impact.

When I was manufacturing we simply paid a £ per KG of product we produced. There was no incentives whatsoever regarding sustainability of product or packaging.

Until public opinion shifts the political change will be slow. WEEE represents the governments ability to say ‘see, we are addressing this problem’. The manufacturers influence is significant, as are the commercials. Sadly this will be a slow transition.