WEEE Ireland Member Conference 2023
November 8, 2023
The WEEE Ireland Member Conference was held on Weds 18th Oct 2023 at Castleknock Hotel, Dublin 12, with expert updates on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) obligations under the Circular Economy, WEEE Directive Evaluation and New European Battery Regulations.
Over 120 delegates registered to attend the event which was part of our scheme’s weeklong engagement on International E-waste Day. The day’s discussions acknowledged the achievements of the Irish e-waste and battery environmental management sector to date, whilst equally representing the scale and complexity of challenges to our focus and direction to include more circular ‘R’ strategies higher up the waste hierarchy including repair, reuse and remanufacturing as well as high quality recycling and recovery.
Beginning with an opening address from Minister of State for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Public Procurement, eGovernment with special responsibility for Communications and Circular Economy, Ossian Smyth, followed by WEEE Ireland CEO Leo Donovan and 4 expert speaker presentations to conference delivered insights and open discussions relevant to Irish Producers, Retailers, Local Authorities, and other Stakeholders, showcasing trends and developments in the WEEE and Waste Battery System in Ireland and elsewhere.
Opening Address: Minister Ossian Smyth
The Minister articulated the need to simplify the understanding of circular economy to encourage behaviour change in our society. He outlined his plan to drive awareness levels higher among the Irish public towards 85-90% with ongoing Consumer campaigns and other activity, including the new deposit return scheme for takeback of bottles and cans.
Minister Smyth however, highlighted the ‘bring it back’ ethos is already embedded in the Irish WEEE and battery system, and complimented the work undertaken by WEEE Ireland and our national recycling partners in this regard. He noted the high level of takeback and acceptance for e-waste and batteries in Ireland, with ease and convenience of access to retail and other collection points. The Minister noted the challenge of small WEEE and the difficulties posed by newer battery-containing devices not being disposed of properly in the established recycling system. He welcomed the forthcoming national WEEE takeback campaign being coordinated by DECC, of which WEEE Ireland is a key stakeholder for both development and funding input.
EPR Challenges and Opportunities from Leo Donovan, WEEE Ireland
Leo Donovan, CEO of WEEE Ireland summarised the current state of the national WEEE and Battery systems in Ireland, how it has involved over the last 18 years and where the future focus toward improved circularity can be delivered including:
- Importance of Standards in quality recycling and Critical Raw Material recovery as well as ensuring health and safety for proper disposal of lithium battery containing devices.
- Supporting Indigenous Collection Facilities for WEEE and Waste Batteries with a national tonnage strategy.
- Visible Environmental Management Costs for supply chain engagement and encouraging takeback through retail and other channels.
- Capture of all WEEE flows including repair and reuse information, with an All Actors approach for accurate data management and reporting across our national EPR systems
Korrina Hegarty: Policy Director, Environment at APPLiA
WEEE Ireland was delighted to once again welcome Korrina from APPLiA to Ireland to address our members and wider audience on the range and scope of EPR related European environmental policy developments impacting the EEE sector. Korrina’s comprehensive presentation included:
- Upcoming changes driving further sustainable product design from the ESPR – Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation.
- The new EU Repair Proposal which will extend repair obligations for Producers beyond warranty phases. APPLiA emphasises the importance of a ‘repair it right’ ethos to ensure consumer health and safety considerations are paramount under this new programme.
- Considerations from the industry perspective on repairability and durability indices and the importance of harmonisation across Europe for any new labelling criteria.
- The significant work being undertaken by APPLiA members on sustainable use of packaging, plastics, energy consumption and the importance of supporting citizens in the green transition with clear information for informed sustainable choices.
- Their ongoing feedback into the current WEEE Directive Evaluation including the importance of harmonised WEEE treatment standards across Europe and strong and effective enforcement to support a level playing field in EPR implementation.
Eric Ruyters: Eucobat
Eric’s detailed presentation is at a pertinent time with newly published European Battery Regulations set to come into force in Ireland and other Member States from February 2024. Eucobat has provided detailed feedback and submissions to the European Commission throughout the development of these lifecycle focused Regulations and continues to be an expert voice on EPR implementation for this new framework.
Eric outlined some key points and new legal obligations across the European and Irish Battery Value chains:
- New battery categories which will impact reporting and more.
o Light Modes of Transport (LMT)
o Electric Vehicle (EV)
o Starter Light Ignition (SLI)
- Removability and Replaceability aspects.
- Consideration for Repurposing of batteries.
- Carbon Footprint Reporting methodology development underway.
- Increased collection targets for waste portable batteries (65% by 2025).
- New collection targets for LMT batteries (51% by 2028).
- Available for Collection target methodology.
- Increased recycling efficiency targets.
- Requirements for recycled content reporting in batteries from 2027.
- Visible fee allowed for batteries to show to consumers.
Dr Geraldine Brennan: CIRCULÉIRE
Geraldine took our conference through an overview of the plans, programmes, thematic workshops, publications and more that CIRCULÉIRE has developed to foster circularity across its 40+ industry Members and their affiliates.
WEEE Ireland has been a founding member of the platform since 2019 and Geraldine described some of the projects supported through this partnership and across the wider electronic and battery cluster within the CIRCULÉIRE network. They include:
- Supporting WEEE Ireland in development of its Circular Vision strategy.
- Publication of open access Circular ICT & Electronics (2022) Good Practice Guide.
- funding for projects including:
- WEEE Ireland led Circular Economy Skillset Initiative (CESI) white goods repair project which has led to a programme now in its third year engaging 30+ individuals trained or in training for a new career in white goods repair and field service.
- RoboCRM a project using machine learning and technology to sort waste batteries.
- Long Life Lithium Battery (LLLB) project in KMK Metals with Wistek on second life potential for EV and industrial Li waste batteries.
- MEDAL: Medical Devices A New Life – return project for medical devices at end of life
- Forthcoming pilot on smart takeback potential for reuse of business and other electrical devices using The Zeronet app based technology.
- Geradline also gave participants and overview of Circular Economy Regulatory and Policy Development in Ireland highlighting open consultations and plans currently in preparation.
Louise Grantham: REPIC
Louise gave a far-reaching overview of the UK WEEE System supported by a detailed report commissioned by REPIC to review 15 years of EPR activity in the sector. The report aims to understand where improvements can be made going forward, learning from the experiences of e-waste management and data flows in the UK to-date.
Points articulated by Louise in her presentation included:
- Pandemic highlighted the importance of EEE in our daily lives.
- EEE placed on the market increased significantly in 2020 & 2021.
- The opposite took place with WEEE as collections fell.
- Indirect link between EEE and WEEE.
- Tonnage waste-based collection targets are not the best measure of WEEE system success.
Louise spoke about the importance of measuring all WEEE flows within the system and the changing nature of both electrical products and collection systems over time which need to be considered for future target setting.