Government considers e-waste obligation for online retailers

By the end of 2021, online businesses may have to follow an equal obligation to collect old devices from customers

The government could require online retailers and marketplaces to collect old electronics from consumers to ensure there is an equal obligation for the collection of electronic waste as physical retailers.

The commitment is within the government’s response to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC)’s report on e-waste.

In that report, the body estimated companies, including Amazon and Apple are contributing to 155,000 tonnes of waste electricals ending up in bins every year

The new measures might see all businesses set old electronics collection targets that will be then verified independently and not coming from self-report.

Government said that by the end of 2021 online retailers and marketplaces will need to have an equal obligation to physical retail to collect e-waste from customers.

EAC Chairman Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP said: “Levelling the playing field for online giants and physical retailers in the take-back of e-waste is important if we are to cut down on the amount of e-waste disposed of incorrectly.

“The government has failed to acknowledge the importance of extracting precious metals from old electronics, dismissing the committee’s finding that weight-based targets are insufficient to ensure the extraction of many of these light metals.

“These metals, including tungsten and cobalt, are crucial in the manufacture of wind turbines and solar panels and their continued supply is therefore vital to making net zero Britain a reality.

“But we are at serious risk of creating supply shortages if we fail to retrieve these rare materials from old devices.”

A Defra spokesperson said: “We welcome the Committee’s findings that electrical goods should be reused or recycled and not condemned to landfill or incineration.

“Our landmark Environment Bill will give us powers to ensure we can provide consumers with better information around the sustainability of the electrical products and gadgets they purchase.

“We will consult on new measures that will ensure we can better manage electronic waste and do more to drive up reuse and recycling, whilst encouraging better eco-design of products.

“We will also review the rules to ensure online sellers and marketplaces play a full part in supporting the collection of unwanted items from households for re-use or recycling.”

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