Small WEEE appliances

Case studies: WEEE Collection trials and monitoring

14th March 2017

The following five case studies highlight waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) collection trials. These tested options to increase the collection of WEEE for re-use and gain maximum value from it.

Key results
A wide range of WEEE collection activities were tested, including: retailer take-back during product delivery; collection points in the workplace; promotion of WEEE re-use benefits; component harvesting via a repair centre; and, inclusion of WEEE re-use
All case studies were successful in increasing WEEE collected.
Schemes can be implemented at low cost.

Workplace

WEEE collections in the workplace

During this case study WEEE collection points were placed in offices to make it convenient for employees to dispose of their unwanted electricals in a way that encouraged re-use or recycling.

The case study:

  • Took place in 34 workplaces over a three month period. 
  • Emails and posters encouraged employees to use the service.
  • A range of product types were collected including  laptops, computers, LCD displays, kettles, toasters, irons and hair straighteners.

Findings:

  • The response from companies trialling the WEEE collection service was very positive. Most trial sites wished to continue with the service.
  • Most products collected were old and none were suitable for re-use.
  • A longer period of time is required to fully embed the service, to determine if increased collection of re-useable items is achievable.
  • An increased volume and frequency of communications is needed, over a period of time, to ensure maximum value is gained from the collection services.

Take-back

Retailers: Take-back scheme

In order to increase WEEE collection rates, Knowhow trialled the collection of small electrical and electronic products from households at the time of delivering or installing new products for customers. 

The Case Study:

  • Involved the collection of small WEEE when new products were delivered to customers. 
  • It ran for a 6 week period between February and March 2016.
  • This approach aimed to reduce damage to WEEE collected and help preserve its re-use value.
  • This option resulted in 47 items being collected. The majority of these were small household items such as speakers, irons, toasters, and mobile phones.

Findings:

  • Customers found it an easy and convenient way to dispose of items.
  • The service should be embedded into everyday practice.
  • Most items collected were not suitable for re-use due to age or damage (product age range 5-15years plus).
  • Setting criteria for items suitable for retailer take-back (e.g. re-use), providing people with information on how to recycle non-target items, and increased staff training may be helpful and increase the collection of re-useable items. 

Benefits promotion

Promotion of WEEE re-use benefits 

This case study tested the impact of increased promotion of WEEE re-use benefits via a telephone hotline and information leaflet at the recycling service, Wastesavers.

The Case Study:

  • An existing hotline script was redeveloped to include cross-selling of the WEEE collection service. Training on the WEEE collection service was provided to staff to encourage them to cross-sell to every donor of other household recyclables.
  • A new leaflet was developed and distributed to around 10,000 properties. The aim of the leaflet was to inform and encourage potential donors to dispose of their WEEE items responsibly and to use the service provided.
  • Working and non-working WEEE items were collected from households. All electrical items were tested for safety portable appliance testing (PAT) and functionality once they arrived at the re-use centre. 
  • Re-usable items were prepared for sale online or through a re-use shop. 
  • Non-re-usable items that failed PAT and/or function tests were harvested for parts and then recycled.

Findings:

  • The hotline and leaflet successfully increased WEEE donations. 
  • The case study resulted in the need to recruit additional staff and volunteers. 
  • This scheme could be replicated by organisations with available collection vehicles, space, and skilled workers who can prepare products for re-use, and harvest parts for use in other products.

Component Harvesting

Improving recycling value through component harvesting

An increase in the re-use of WEEE, specifically large domestic appliances (LDAs), can be realised by directing these items through a repair centre that incorporates a component workshop.

The Case Study:

  • Partners: the Local Authority (LA), a Producer Compliance Scheme (PCS) and a re-use organisation.
  • A dedicated member of staff was recruited to manage the project and onsite staff were provided with training.
  • Compliance as an Approved Authorised Treatment Facility (AAFT) was considered, including: a full risk assessment and procedure for the repair and refurbishment of WEEE; storage of waste in a secure place; Waste Carrier’s Licence; hazardous waste registration; and provision of the month’s warranty for refurbished items.
  • The Wastesavers’ site was reorganised to ensure that space was available and used efficiently for the receipt, inspection, testing, repair, storage, and sale of the WEEE collected.
  • A dedicated workshop for stripping and storing of components was established.
  • An existing database for tracking WEEE items was updated to incorporate data on components.

The findings:

  • The overall re-use rate for WEEE collected from the recycling centres increased from around 20% to 39% over the two-month trial, with a 54% re-use rates on Large Domestic Appliances (LDAs).
  • The new workshop increased the opportunity for repairing of products.
  • The costs against income show that this was a fully sustainable bolt-on activity to the existing operation.
  • Because the initial infrastructure and equipment was already in place, set-up costs were minimal.

Local authorities contracts

Including re-use in Local Authority contracts

Local Authorities can maximise WEEE re-use by including it in WEEE collection and treatment tendering, contract specifications, and the operational service.

The Case Study:

  • Invitation to Tender (ITT) documents were received from 21 Local Authorities (LAs). These, together with contracts for procuring the collection and treatment of WEEE from Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs), were reviewed to assess how re-use was represented in ITT’s and contracts.
  • Interviews were carried out with 10 LAs and three re-use organisations to better understand drivers, issues, and where support may be required.
  • Re-use performance was monitored in each of the LAs to measure the levels of re-use obtained, based on whether it was included within the WEEE collections, ITT, or contract procurement process.

Findings:

  • Nine out of ten LAs interviewed stated that having examples of text to include in their tender/contract would encourage them and others to include re-use in their service.
  • Including re-use in the tender process generated yields of about 8%. 
  • The highest quantities of re-use were achieved by charities collecting from HWRCs which also contained an onsite shop selling re-usable WEEE.
  • LAs can benefit from an increased awareness of the role a Producer Compliance Scheme (PCS) can play in supporting WEEE re-use (at no extra cost), including examples of text to include in tenders and contracts.
  • LAs that include re-use within their tender are more likely to increase the re-use of WEEE in their area.

These case studies were carried out to develop and test a number of options with the aim of maximising the value of household WEEE collections. 

Much of the UK’s WEEE is collected through ad-hoc bulk collection systems where materials are processed through large-scale shredding operators that focus on recovery of a few, simple-to-recover materials. This limits the value of materials recovered because it inhibits re-use of products and components, and the recovery of lower-volume high-value materials.  

The Government is responsible for meeting the UK’s weight-based WEEE collection targets for 2016 and 2019, and has an interest in creating economic growth, job creation and skills development in this area. 

The case studies sought to demonstrate that better collection, preparation for re-use and recovery can maximise value, create jobs and increase skills; and in turn support the Government to meet current and future WEEE collection targets.

Case Study Objectives:

  • To develop and test a number of collection options to maximise the value of household WEEE.
  • To understand the impact and potential to maximise value recoverable from products.
  • To assess the impact of different collections options in terms of increase in recovery for re-use, and the value achievable.

Summary of findings:

  • All case studies were successful in increasing WEEE collected.
  • Schemes can be implemented at low cost.
  • Retailer take-back and collection events experienced lower re-use rates.
  • Effective communications are a key to collecting higher volume and quality of WEEE.
  • Repair activities have the potential to create employment.
  • LAs that had re-use in their tender invitations and contracts showed that higher-than-average re-use rates can be achieved.
  • Highest quantities of re-use were achieved by charities collecting from HWRCs that also contained an onsite re-use shop selling re-used EEE.
  • LAs would benefit from increased awareness of the role a Producer Compliance Scheme can play in supporting LA re-use.
  • Nine out of ten LAs interviewed stated that having examples of text to include in their tender/contract would encourage them and others to include re-use in their service.