Material Focus calls for retailers to comply with waste electrical regulations and take back more electricals in store

Material Focus calls for retailers to comply with waste electrical regulations and take back more electricals in store

New Material Focus research has identified that around ​​75% of UK adults would recycle their electricals at their local supermarket, electrical retailer or charity retailer if it was available to them. In response to this, Material Focus has launched a briefing paper to help retailers comply with their waste electrical take back obligations to ensure that more retailers provide in-store recycling drop off points for their customers. Making it easier for consumers to recycle their electricals by providing in-store drop-off points is key to solving the UK’s fastest growing waste stream. The research, conducted by Opinium also found that over 77% of householders would view a retailer as more environmentally responsible if they knew they offered recycling of electricals.  

In January 2021, the UK government laid out clear legal responsibilities for retailers of electricals to make it easier for their customers to recycle their electricals by taking back old unwanted electricals in store. To help retailers understand their responsibilities, and help their customers recycle, Material Focus has created a Retailer Take-back Obligations Briefing paper, which highlights that:

  • All electrical retailers are legally obliged to help their customers recycle their electricals.  Retailers must take back customers’ items for recycling that are the same type of product that has a similar function when they buy a new electrical item, regardless of brand, on a like-for-like basis principle. 
  • Retailers must clearly communicate to their customers that they provide the recycling take-back service in-store – and be able to prove that. 
  • Retailers should use Material Focus’s communications toolkit created in collaboration with OPSS and the Department for Business and Trade to help ensure consistency across all consumer communications relating to retailer take-back. In the toolkit retailers will find key editable communication materials that they can adapt to their own retailer branding.
  • Encouraging best practice – some retailers are now going beyond the regulations and taking back in-store electricals for recycling even if the customer isn’t buying a new item. This is similar to other European countries. 
  • Retailers that fail to comply with the WEEE regulations can be prosecuted and fined up to £5,000 at a magistrates’ court or get an unlimited fine from a Crown Court. 

Scott Butler, Executive Director of Material Focus said, “Recycling electricals needs to be made much easier. Retailers can become a key part of the solution by adding drop-off or collection points in-store and actively telling their customers that they can do this. Our research has shown that 81% of householders say they would use retailer drop off points if they were available as it would make it easier for them to recycle their electricals. A handful of retailers are starting to comply with the regulations and also going beyond the minimum requirements by allowing their customers to recycle without the need for buying a new product, such as Curry’s, John Lewis and B&Q. However, more retailers could do this, or they could at least tell their customers that they can take back their old products for recycling if they buy a replacement one:”

The UK Government is exploring new, strengthened take-back obligations on all retailers, including internet sellers.  Retailers across Europe are already mandated to take back all electricals in-store. 

Contact Nick Birch, Brand Partnerships Manager at Material Focus at [email protected] to discuss working together to make it easier for the UK public to recycle all of their electricals.

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