As long-time sponsors of the LARAC Scholarship programme, REPIC, the UK’s largest WEEE compliance scheme, invited the cohort of recycling officers from local authorities across the UK to visit Waste Experts’ busy WEEE and lamp treatment facility in Huddersfield.
Warmly welcomed by Group Manager, Shaun Donaghey, and the whole Waste Experts team, the facility tour provided an opportunity for many of the officers to visit their first WEEE treatment plant. The chance to obtain first-hand insight on the complexities of WEEE and lamp recycling and discuss with peers how to achieve compliant, sustainable operations whilst moving towards Net Zero was received positively.
The debate chaired by James Langley of letsrecycle.com, saw the ten recycling officers, alongside LARAC representatives and the REPIC team talk openly about their own experiences. Councils included: Blackburn with Darwen, Cannock Chase, Eastleigh, Gravesham, Newcastle Under Lyme, Northumberland, Preston, Trafford and Wakefield.
Setting the scene for the debate, Sarah Downes, External Affairs Manager at REPIC, shared the compliance scheme’s latest research about EEE acquired by householders and their attitudes and willingness to reuse and buy secondhand or refurbished products.
Summary of the debate
Local Authorities talked about the need to provide waste management services and awareness raising being mainly focused on recycling. The officers all agreed that local authorities have a role to play in facilitating reuse into the system. The opportunity to help consumers understand the waste hierarchy in relation to specific product and waste types was also explored.
The group also agreed that the reuse of items through platforms like Freegle and Facebook Marketplace was happening organically and could be encouraged and promoted to local residents. Partnerships with national and local charities to repair and refurbish furniture, electricals, and clothing were underway or being considered. At one local authority site a dedicated reuse container was up and running in which residents can donate specific items to be sold at reuse outlets across the borough. The number of items going through the reuse outlets is also being monitored.
“People understand recycling but they don’t understand reuse. Most people tend to think of how they can get rid of something, rather than what use it can be to someone when they have finished with it.” Collection of textiles and books are common across some local authorities. Others have been piloting, ‘Working Wardrobe Collection Points’ for those that need smart items of clothing to wear to an interview; and a ‘Slim your Bin’ campaign and a ‘Remember Your Reusable’ Campaign showed residents how to reuse household items with the home .
The group raised the point that effective communication begins with running consistent and well-targeted campaigns. Whilst the national pandemic switched everything to digital platforms, many local authorities favoured a combined approach to communication. “Face to face always works. Our social media following only reaches a small percentage of residents so we have a concerted effort to utilise a range of channels to get our messages across.”
The scholars and REPIC team left the day enthused by the discussion, the opportunity to network and share initiatives with other local authorities. The group all agreed how they benefitted from the professional tour and explanation of the operations at the Wastes Experts’ treatment facility.