Electrical waste could generate millions


Charlotte Reid writes how almost a quarter of electronic waste thrown out each year could be reused and make £220 million, according to new research from the Government’s waste adviser WRAP.

A study, called Realising the Reuse Value of Household WEEE (Waste, Electrical and Electronic Equipment), has revealed that mobile phones, laptops and other electrical equipment thrown away each year represent a multimillion pound recycling opportunity.

Lucy Keal, WRAP’s project manager for products and retail, said, “We found that 23% of all the WEEE collected at recycling centres could have been either sold on straight away, or resold after repair and refurbishment.

“This in turn, could generate gross revenues of more than £220 million a year – and even after taking account of the costs involved in acquiring the waste items and repairing or refurbishing them, this could still realise profits of more than £100 million.”

The report found that consumer goods, including items like televisions and radios, are not always thrown out because they are broken, but because they are being replaced with a more up-to-date version.

When testing goods that had been thrown away, it was discovered that 12% of WEEE products at household waste recycling centres are in full working order, with a further 11% fine for resale after repairs.

There is a tendency for households not to think about repairing broken electrical goods these days.
Keal said, “Consumers often assume it will be cheaper to replace items rather than have them repaired, but it’s clear from our research that there’s real value to be had from these discarded goods”.

She added, “This research demonstrates the crucial importance of promoting the reuse of WEEE. We’re currently throwing away equipment that’s in perfect working order, or could be easily repaired or refurbished for someone else to use”.

Meanwhile, there has been a growing trend in people recycling their mobile phones through websites like Envirofone and Mazuma Mobile. In 2009 mobile phone recycling searches on the internet trebled. People want to exchange their old phones for cash.

In general these companies will, once they receive the phones, reuse them, which often involves sending old handsets to be used in developing countries or they can break the phone down to be recycled.

To help raise awareness of recycling all electrical items, an advert is due to be aired on behalf of the WEEE partnership, from December 26th, explaining what to do with electronics once you are finished with them.

Speaking to the website Letsrecycle.com Justin Greenaway, coordinator of the campaign and contracts manager at WEEE processor SWEEP Kuusakoski, said a lack of awareness is why so many people end up throwing away electrical items.

Greenaway said, “The WEEE Directive was introduced at the same time as the smoking ban. While everyone knows not to smoke indoors, if you mention WEEE to most people you get a blank expression.

“There is a good infrastructure in place for recycling WEEE, we just want to make sure that people know how to use it.”

We recommend taking a look at The Good Shopping Guide as the definitive guide to who are the environmental heroes and villains for everything you buy.  

Photo: Horrortaxi