Up to £5m of interest-free loans for electrical waste treatment facilities and £600,000 of grants for charity-sector reuse organisations are now up for grabs
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Fund (WEEE Fund) has announced a £5.6m Covid-19 support package to help the electrical waste recycling sector manage disruption caused by the coroinavirus crisis.
The package is geared at electrical waste treatment centres and reuse organisations that have been forced to close or operate a reduced service, due to social distancing measures or a slower flow of materials than usual as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.
Scott Butler, executive director of the WEEE Fund, said on Wednesday that the fund had been set up to provide "rapid help and support" to the struggling sector. "The loans will be 100 per cent backed by the WEEE Fund - funded by producers of electricals," he said. "We've designed the application process to ensure speedy allocation of funding, and included a range of support for re-use and recycling organisations."
The group has promised to provide £5m of interest-free loans for electrical waste treatment facilities and £600,000 of grants for charity-sector reuse organisations.
The WEEE Fund is administered by the Joint Trade Associations (JTA) Group, a trade body that represents producers of electrical and electronic products. Funds are raised from money collected from IT and electronics sector compliance schemes. Funding is then largely into local projects, research, communications, and behaviour change activities designed to reduce e-waste levels and encourage recycling and re-use.
Electric and electronic waste, which requires specialist recycling, is one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the UK, and the closure of specialist treatment facilities during the pandemic has had a significant impact on the industry.
The levels of e-waste being provided to official processing facilities has fallen and in early April the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) urged households to resist the urge to throw electronic goods into general waste or recycling.
Improperly recycled WEEE waste poses a major threat to human and ecosystem health. E-waste, which includes lithium-ion batteries prone to internal combustion under pressure, is a known cause of fire at household waste collection and recycling centres and harmful substances leaking from e-waste can cause soil and water pollution.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow joined a number of industry groups in commending the WEEE Fund's initiative. "I'm hugely grateful to the enormous effort being put in to keep crucial services running; and in such unprecedented times I understand the pressure the industry is under," she said. "This fund will help the sector to weather the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. Crucially it will also enable people to do the right thing and recycle more as we move towards a more circular economy."
Phil Conran, chair of the Approved Authorised Treatment Facility (AATF) Forum, said that the package was "a crucial lifeline for many AATFs at risk from the lack of WEEE supply following the widespread closure of council household waste recycling centres."
He added that "the potential loss of quality treatment capacity would be extremely damaging both environmentally and economically to the UK's ability to meet recycling targets and treatment standards and this initiative should be considered as an essential investment for the future."
Jacob Hayler, executive director of the Environmental Services Association (ESA), said: "This fund will provide some support through this difficult period and, as a sector, we must ensure that operators experiencing problems at various points across the value-chain receive the assistance they need, so that we all emerge with an unbroken chain once this crisis passes."
Applications for WEEE Fun support packages are now open. Half of any loans will be made available in April and May and the remainder three months later, the WEEE Fund said.
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