The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has re-launched an inquiry into electronic waste and the circular economy as the EC adopts a new Circular Economy Action Plan as part of the EU Industrial Strategy.

According to Cefic, it is the chemical industry that “provides the wheels for a circular economy” as for paper, batteries or plastics recycling the process is fundamentally chemical.

The EAC’s inquiry will explore how the UK could reduce its environmental impact, create economic opportunities and maintain access to critical materials by better managing and minimising its e-waste.

Evidence submitted to the inquiry in the previous Parliament will be carried forward, but the Committee welcomes any additional written evidence on some, or all, of the following points.

  • What steps are being taken to move towards a circular economy for electronic goods? How can the UK Government support this transition?

  • What is the environmental and human health risk from e-waste? How significant is it and who is most at risk?

  • How can secondary markets for electrical goods be improved? What incentives are required to implement these markets?

  • Why does recovering materials from electronic waste pose a significant challenge? What support is required to facilitate the adoption of recovery technologies?

  • Are UK Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) collection targets achievable? What challenges do UK producer compliance schemes and WEEE reprocessors face in meeting the collection targets?

  • What causes fraud in the UK’s e-waste system? How can this be addressed?

  • What action can the UK Government take to prevent to the illegal export of e-waste to the developing world?

  • What proposals does the UK Government need to consider as part of its consultation on WEEE?

  • Is UK public awareness of e-waste recycling satisfactory? If not, how can it be improved?

Evidence can be submitted online by 30 April 2020.

Meanwhile the European Commission has adopted a new Circular Economy Action Plan as part of the EU Industrial Strategy. It presents measures to:

  • make sustainable products the norm in the EU by proposing legislation to ensure that products placed on the EU market are designed to last longer, are easier to reuse, repair and recycle, and incorporate as much as possible recycled material instead of primary raw material. Single-use will be restricted, premature obsolescence tackled and the destruction of unsold durable goods banned

  • give consumers access to reliable information on issues such as the reparability and durability of products to help them make environmentally sustainable choices

  • focus on sectors that use the most resources and where the potential for circularity is high. The Commission will launch concrete actions on:

    • electronics and ICT — to have longer product lifetimes, and improve the collection and treatment of waste

    • batteries and vehicles — new regulatory framework for batteries for enhancing the sustainability and boosting the circular potential of batteries

    • packaging — new mandatory requirements on what is allowed on the EU market, including the reduction of (over)packaging

    • plastics — new mandatory requirements for recycled content and special attention on microplastics as well as biobased and biodegradable plastics

    • textiles — to strengthen competitiveness and innovation in the sector and boost the EU market for textile reuse

    • construction and buildings — promoting circularity principles for buildings

    • food — new legislative initiative on reuse to substitute single-use packaging, tableware and cutlery by reusable products in food services

  • ensure less waste. The focus will be on avoiding waste altogether and transforming it into high-quality secondary resources that benefit from a well-functioning market for secondary raw materials. The Commission will explore setting an EU-wide, harmonised model for the separate collection of waste and labelling. The Action Plan also puts forward a series of actions to minimise EU exports of waste and tackle illegal shipments.

Last reviewed 25 March 2020