Skip to main content

Wasted opportunity? MPs launch follow up on Government’s e-waste plans

25 March 2024

The Environmental Audit Committee returns to the issue of electronic waste as it considers what more the Government should do to tackle the “tsunami” of wasted electronic items.

MPs hold an evidence session on 17 April and plan to hear evidence from witnesses across the electronic goods and waste industries.

Manufacturing electronic items from raw materials can release significant carbon emissions, causing serious damage to the environment. Unless treated properly, electronic waste can release toxic chemicals that harm human and animal health.

In November 2020, the Committee’s report ‘Electronic waste and the circular economy” highlighted these damaging impacts. The Committee called for more to be done on embedding a circular economy to use, re-use and recycle electronic products. At the time, the Government fully or partially accepted 22 of the Committee’s 27 recommendations.

However, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs’ consultation on electrical waste failed to address many of these recommendations or to give commitments to implement the recommendations accepted by Government. Proposals such as ensuring products sold on online marketplaces are legally compliant, addressing planned obsolescence and making electrical items safe to repair for the consumer are not covered in the current consultation.

Committee Chair Philip Dunne wrote to the Government in March 2024, criticising the absence of several of the Committee’s recommendations in its consultation on electronic waste. Commenting on the letter, the Chair said it appeared the Government was “yet to grasp fully the scale of the e-waste tsunami.”

In the session MPs examine the Government’s consultation, considering whether it concerned the necessary elements of electrical waste reforms and whether anything was missed. They are also likely to consider the National Audit Office’s findings last year that the Government’s waste reform programme is significantly behind schedule and lacking a plan for delivery. 

Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Philip Dunne MP, said:

“The Committee was encouraged when the Government accepted the majority of its recommendations to tackle e-waste in 2020. Yet four years on, it appears the Government is failing to make substantial progress.

“I recently referred to the ‘tsunami’ of e-waste in the UK; yet it appears the Government is wasting an opportunity to tackle this problem head on.

“We will be hearing from a range of industry voices on what the Government needs to do to get its waste strategy back on track.”

Further information

Image: UK Parliament/Tyler Allicock/Gabriel Sainhas