A UK WEEE matching system: a feasibility study

The UK government is preparing to consult on potential changes to the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) regulations. The consultation provides an opportunity for revised legislation to drive improved outcomes in the collection, reuse and recycling of waste electrical and electronic products.

With this in mind, Material Focus commissioned a study of ‘matching’ – sometimes called ‘allocation’ – with Oakdene Hollins being appointed to undertake the project. ‘Matching’ is a model used in various forms in other countries. It involves producer compliance schemes (PCSs) collecting WEEE at a level equivalent to (i.e. matching) their producer members’ combined market share. In the UK, by contrast, PCSs tender competitively for access to some or all designated collection facilities (DCFs). 

Some industry stakeholders argue that the UK approach is economically inefficient, promotes purchasing of evidence rather than actual collections, and does not provide a level playing field for PCSs on which they can actively compete. 

Method

Oakdene Hollins’s partner for the project, the WEEE Forum, reached out to its network of PCSs to identify countries in Europe and further afield that use a matching process. Responses were received from 11 territories and interviews were conducted with stakeholders in 2021. Interview data were supplemented with official documentation on methodologies to produce fact sheets about each territory. The fact sheets were used to inform discussion with UK stakeholders on the pros and cons of introducing matching to the UK.

Key findings

  • When designed and enforced appropriately to a country context, matching has created a harmonised and stable system and a level playing field for competition and quality of service. This has allowed for more productive and efficient use of resources by PCSs.
  • Of the four main models of matching, the best suited to the UK would be matching by collection points. This is where PCS are matched according to a collaboration and negotiation-based process or a well-defined algorithm. Denmark, Italy, Illinois (USA), France and parts of Spain use this approach.  
  • Potential benefits of matching in a UK context include:
    • Redirecting resources that are currently focussed on competing for access to WEEE towards improving the performance of the WEEE system.
    • Improved efficiencies and standards through central coordination of WEEE and, potentially, of information flows.
    • Removal of economic distortions that may arise from differences in the nature and costs of collecting WEEE in different parts of the UK.
  • As well as perceived benefits, the introduction of matching would require investments and would have impacts on a number of stakeholders
  • Although matching alone would not increase WEEE collections, it could be part and parcel of wider reform aimed at improving the UK WEEE system as a whole.

Conclusions

The research provides an up-to-date evidence base on ways of implementing matching, sets out the potential costs and benefits and identifies areas that warrant further study. While it is not a policy recommendation, the study provides a comprehensive analysis of the mechanisms, benefits, drawbacks and impacts of matching and should usefully support the upcoming review of the UK’s WEEE regulations.

A UK WEEE Matching System: A feasibility study of options

Oakdene Hollins, with the WEEE Forum
February 2022
159 pages. PDF

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UK WEEE matching system report cover