WEEE Recycling – Why the sudden upsurge in demand?
Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment is a rapidly growing sector of the waste and recycling industry and was brought to the forefront of the waste management sector with the WEEE Directive which was introduced in 2006. The directive presented a number of requirements surrounding the recovery, reuse, recycling and treatment of WEEE and was the precursor to the WEEE Regulations of 2013, which were updated in 2019 to include a wider range of eligible products.
It’s estimated that the UK disposes of up to 2 million tonnes of WEEE every year, of which there are 10 categories:
- Large household appliances – ovens, fridges and similar items make up to 40% of WEEE products
- Small household appliances
- IT and telecoms equipment – predominantly computers
- Consumer equipment – over 2 million TVs are thrown away every year
- Lighting equipment
- Electrical and electronic tools
- Toys, leisure and sports equipment
- Medical devices
- Monitoring and control equipment
- Automatic dispensers
What happens to discarded WEEE?
The answer to this depends largely on the composition of the WEEE product. For example, a modern TV contains approximately 6% metal and 50% glass whereas a kitchen cooker is approximately 89% metal and just 6% glass. Precious metals, types of plastic and ceramics are also commonly found in WEEE and some items even contain hazardous materials such as lead and mercury. Whatever the makeup of an item, the parts which can be recovered are usually recycled into new products.
Some WEEE treatment facilities shred the waste while others take it to pieces in order to collect the components which can be recycled but both methods require the careful removal and disposal of hazardous materials throughout the treatment process.
Why is the WEEE sector growing so quickly?
The growth of this area of waste management can be largely ascribed to the aforementioned legislation, but reports also attribute recent growth to covid-19. During the UK lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, many businesses closed their doors, either temporarily or permanently.
For those who sadly closed for good, much of their electronic equipment found its way to the bin as the market for second hand kit quickly became saturated and resale values plummeted. And, as non-frontline workers found themselves at home for significant periods of time, online sales of tech soared as people sought to make home improvements and upgrades to their home tech, including an upsurge in home offices. Hence, many older or out-of-date items were discarded.
In addition, the trend towards the circular economy has put pressure on manufacturers to reuse materials and avoid single use items such as plastics. Add to that the pressure from ‘celebrity’ environmentalists such as David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, and you can see how the profile of recycling has risen dramatically in the last few years.
This perfect storm of public pressure coupled with increased supply and demand has led to a significant surge in WEEE recycling, and waste management companies have risen to the challenge. For some it has afforded an opportunity to diversify from their usual waste portfolio, while for others it has provided the perfect conditions for new start-ups and brokerages.
Waste Experts and the Electrical Waste Recycling Group have worked with Waste Logics to develop its system capabilities to ensure Hazardous Waste collections could be managed and controlled within the system. The Waste Logics platform will now support Waste Experts in delivering a market leading approach, from prospecting and order booking right through to collection and treatment at our facility. The Waste Industry is one that is driven by change and innovation, and we feel that Waste Logics have committed to this journey with us, ensuring that we are able to improve systems and processes continually.
~ Liam Allmand
Business Manager – Waste Experts
Whatever your individual business circumstances, managing a WEEE recycling operation is a complex and highly regulated area of the waste industry. If you are still using multiple systems to manage your business, take a look at Waste Logics and see how you can consolidate your systems into one simple interface and save time and money by increasing your productivity and efficiency.