Online retailers set to be mandated to collect e-waste

Electric avenue: Online retailers may be required to collect e-waste

Online retailers and marketplaces, such as Amazon, could soon be required to collect e-waste from consumers, as part of government plans to clamp down on electrical items entering landfill.

A move of this nature would create equal obligation for the collection of e-waste between online players and physical retailers, which already must take back and dispose of electricals they sell to customers.

The commitment is within the government’s response to the Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) report on Electronic Waste in the Circular Economy. The government is also consulting on rolling out kerbside collection for e-waste around the UK.


This consultation period may result in enhanced retailer obligations to provide more collection points for e-waste for consumers.

The government also outlined that provisions within the Environment Bill could improve consumer awareness of the repairability and recyclability of products. For example, businesses selling electricals might be mandated to label products with what components are recycled and how repairable the item is, which would help people make more sustainable purchasing decisions.

Many of these subjects were discussed as part of Circular Electronics Day, in January, and there is growing awareness within the IT/electricals manufacturing and retail worlds that reducing annual e-waste is a necessary requirement.

EAC chairman, 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.

“We need to make urgent improvements to the reuse and recycling of such products, and I am pleased that the government has recognised the role online retailers and marketplaces should play in taking increased responsibility for the e-waste streams they help generate.”


The EAC said it was disappointed the government has rejected its recommendation to reduce VAT on repair services. The government argued that any resultant loss in tax revenue would have to be balanced elsewhere.

Also rejected was a recommendation for targets on the recovery of critical raw materials and retaining value from old electronics. During the inquiry, the committee heard that a continued focus on weight-based targets can overlook the valuable materials that weigh less.

“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,” noted Dunne.

“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.”

E-waste take-back schemes are just one of several important components of a circular economy – our editor recently commented on the importance of clothing take-back initiatives

[Image credit: Green Retail World]

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