Retailer Collection is The Key to Tackling Electronic Waste

Here in the UK, we spend more than £800 per year on electrical goods. The constant advancement of technology, plus our desire to own the latest gadgets, also means that we throw away 1.4 million tonnes of unwanted electricals every year, which is a problem for the manufacturers of these goods, the government, the recycling industry, the environment, and for us.

Up until recently, most electrical items we threw away ended up in landfill or scrapyards, and this posed a big problem for the environment.

ewaste

The problem of ozone damaging gases

Appliances like fridges contain CFC gases which could escape into the environment and damage the ozone layer, and there is still a lack of investment in recycling for larger electrical items, which means that these are always going to pose a problem for the planet until a viable solution is found.

New facility for WEEE recycling

Last summer, AO launched a recycling arm to try and tackle the problems of WEEE recycling head on. They have built a new recycling facility in Shropshire which has state of the art technology for processing recyclable WEEE and all of its components.

The main task that the plant carries out is fridge recycling, but other large electrical appliances are brought to the plant too, and they’re either recycled or refurbished to be resold. The plant has the capacity to reprocess 700,000 fridges every year.   

How fridges are processed

The compressors are removed from fridges that are no longer usable. Compressors are very valuable and in fact, they are often illegally removed from fridges, then the units themselves are dumped. Gases, oils, and refrigerants are removed, then what’s left of the fridge is put into a shredding machine, where as much material is saved as possible.

fridge recycling

What needs to change?

For any recycling scheme to succeed, our approach to recycling electronic appliances must change. The change that would have the biggest effect would be to move from a focus on household disposal of electronics, to collection by retailers. Firms need to make it easier for customers to return their unwanted appliances when they want to upgrade an appliance or replace a broken one. This is far better for consumers and for the environment.

There also needs to be more investment in electrical appliance recycling, and improved industry standards among waste management and recycling companies. Retailers, manufacturers, and waste management and recycling firms need to work together to make retailer collection of electrical appliances the norm, if we are to have any chance of tackling the growing problem of electronic waste.