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How to dispose of WEEE waste

A big challenge in the waste industry over recent years has been recycling WEEE Waste. Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) requires specialist attention when it comes to disposal, with the recent WEEE Regulations becoming law in the UK on the 1st of January, 2014. Every year, an estimate of two million tonnes of WEEE items are thrown by household residents in the UK, which poses a huge task when it comes to recycling the items. There are ten categories that make up WEEE Waste, these are outlined in the 2013 regulations through:

  • Large Household Appliances
  • Small Household Appliances
  • IT & Telecommunications equipment
  • Consumer equipment
  • Lighting equipment
  • Electrical and electronic tools
  • Toys, leisure and sports equipment
  • Medical devices
  • Monitoring and control equipment
  • Automatic dispensers

The majority of WEEE Waste is currently made up of large household appliances, however large amounts come from materials that are difficult to recycle. Items in the above list are a mix of many different waste types, some of which are extremely hazardous. Due to this, there are different treatments of disposal that need to be considered. One method is the disassembly operation, where treatment facilities will have manual or automated processes in place that take apart the items and split the waste types up for recycling. Other methods look at shredding technologies. DEFRA recently produced a document that looks at the best practices available when it comes to the treatment of WEEE Waste, which has helped waste transfer stations around the country.

Bad Practices

When it comes to disposing of WEEE waste items, unfortunately fly-tipping is still a big issue that needs tackling. In 2016/17, more than one million cases of fly-tipped waste had to be handled by the councils of England, which came to an estimated cost of £58 million to clear up. In a recent article published by Manchester Evening News, it highlighted Oldham Council incorporate costs of £2,500 a day to clear up fly-tipped waste items like old electrical appliances. No waste should be fly-tipped and is now a criminal offence to do so, however it is even more dangerous when hazardous waste types like WEEE items are dumped.

Good Practices

It is not all doom and gloom, as many brands out there that are doing everything, they can prevent electrical products ending up as waste. Brands are now putting sustainability at the forefront of their strategy, especially technology led brand’s that are now designing products with the sole purpose of injecting them back into their production line.

One brand fighting the battle to reduce WEEE waste is Apple, who are using the innovation that made them industry giants to leave their mark on the world, not the planet.  With the launch of the new MacBook Air and Mac Mini products, their enclosures are now made up of 100% recycled aluminium, proving the most advanced technology can be made sustainably. Apple managed to do this by developing a new aluminium alloy that allows them to recycle scrap metal without impacting product quality. Apple also encourage customers to trade in old devices when purchasing new products, to make sure the materials are correctly recycled and injected back into their production line. Customers are told that old devices still have lots to offer, with recycled materials more than likely ending up part of the brand’s new innovative products.

Another company putting sustainability at the heart of strategy is HP, who pledge to recycle 1.2 million metric tons of PC hardware and printer supplies by 2025. To achieve this, HP have recycling centres for people to get rid of unwanted electronic products. Once handed in, HP will strip them down, injecting them back into their production line or recycling them responsibly. All HP stores offer trade-in as well, where consumers can hand in old electrical products to put towards new HP product.

John Lewis also put sustainability at the heart of their brand, however their approach differs slightly to Apple and HP, as they go for a more educational route. John Lewis partnered with Recycle Now to support the recycling of WEEE waste products sold. Although John Lewis do not accept old unwanted electrical items in stores, the brand contribute by funding several recycling points through their partnership with Recycle Now. The brand work together with their partners to direct consumers to their nearest recycling site for WEEE waste, ensuring that old unwanted items are recycled responsibly.

Solutions

So, what can brands do more of to prevent WEEE waste and optimise it’s recycling? Well, studying the sustainability strategies of industry giants like Apple, John Lewis and HP would be a start. Although, there are many solutions out there that can improve our treatment and recycling of WEEE waste, especially when it comes to making it more sustainable. So what practices can brands put in place to tackle WEEE waste?

Innovation

One of the harder methods to approach but the most beneficial. Focusing on innovation, like industry giants Apple, could see your brand’s production line improve immensely. More brand’s are attempting to create products that are made from more sustainable materials, with the aim to use those materials continuously in their production line. This is a positive change when it comes to reducing WEEE waste, as the more materials can be reused the less likely they end up as waste.

Donation

Brands can visit this route as well. Many brands out there are now are partnering up with charities and optimising recycling of WEEE waste. Brand’s could offer donation points at physical stores which consumers can hand in their old unwanted WEEE waste items, injecting them back into the circular economy.

Trade In

Offering trade in schemes is beneficial to both the brand and the environment. Brand’s can benefit if innovation has been optimised and parts are being injected back into their production line, although they must be sure that the items can be recycled into new products. The environment also benefits, as the overall WEEE waste generated is being reduced by brands reusing products that would have ended up as waste.

Hand In (Cash Exchange)

Brand’s offering a cash exchange for old unwanted electrical products is a great incentive to encourage consumer recycling. Many brand’s already implement this, such as HP, who allow customers to hand in unwanted electrical items in exchange for cash. Although recycling WEEE waste responsibly should not take a cash incentive, the result is still positive.

Educate

Educating staff in house is essential to implementing more sustainable business practices, so it is important for brands to consider. Brand’s could work this into training, educating employees on the most sustainable methods to reduce waste they are producing. This can then create a domino effect that spreads awareness on the importance of WEEE waste recycling, by staff members educating consumers and consumers educating others.

To summarise…

So, can brands do more to reduce WEEE waste and improve recycling rates? We believe they can. There are many business practices out there for brands to consider when putting together their sustainability strategy, some of which can have a enormous impact on the environment.

If your business needs help creating a sustainable and responsible approach to it’s WEEE waste, visit Reconomy today for more information. Call us on 01952 292 000 or email us at enquiries@reconomy.com