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Producers highlight growing demand for refurbished white goods

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Environcom, the largest independent Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) recycling and reuse business in the UK, provided the perfect location to wave off a peloton of seven cyclists – on pedal and e-bikes – at the start of the twelfth stage of the REPIC WEEE Cycle Network event on Tuesday 13th June 2023.

To mark the 15 year anniversary of the UK’s WEEE regulations, employees from REPIC, the UK’s leading WEEE producer compliance scheme were joined by Environcom’s Charles Gill on the twelfth stage of the 15 day cycling event.

Yesterday, Jon Parsons, Chief Finance Officer at Environcom, cycled over 50 miles from Doncaster to Environcom’s Grantham site, during stage eleven. He rode into the site with a trailer of small mixed electricals on the back of his bike just after 6:00pm.

Travelling as far as Peterborough on Tuesday 13th June, a distance of 75 miles, the REPIC WEEE Cycle Network event aims to bring together the wider sector to celebrate the achievements of those involved in the reuse and recycling of waste electricals. In total, the 15 day, 15 location and 15 great stories event, will cover a distance of over 850 miles, from Alness in the Highlands to Sittingbourne, Kent.

Celebrating 15 great stories along the route, and joining up a network of AATFs, Local Authority sites, repair and reuse initiatives, the REPIC WEEE Cycle Network event is also providing an opportunity to look forward to what lies ahead in both the forthcoming WEEE consultation and the transition to a more circular economy.

To mark the occasion, four representatives from BEKO, a REPIC producer compliance scheme founder member, REPIC employees and a charity representative from Sue Ryder toured the Spittlegate Level site. The visitors heard first-hand how extending product lifetimes through reuse is not only beneficial to the environment, but also creates significant long term employment opportunities, and has most recently, helped families through the cost of living crisis. Producers, in their journey to adopt more circular business models, have for many years taken an active role in extending the life of their products, when it makes sound environmental and economic sense to do so.

Both producers and treatment facilities have noticed a growing demand for eco-friendly and affordable products as consumers face financial challenges during the cost of living squeeze.

Cris Stephenson, Chief Executive at Environcom, commented: “The demand in the UK for refurbished appliances has grown substantially over the years and sales to UK charities in 2022 increased by 201% compared to 2018. Taking time out to recap on the economic, environmental and social benefits of reusing electricals to mark 15 years of the WEEE Regulations shows just how far reuse has come but also the challenges it still faces to grow.

“Refurbished white goods are in high demand, with each appliance being sold with a six-month “peace of mind” warranty that provides consumers with the same cover as buying a new product. We are now unable to source sufficient stock to meet the demand.”

REPIC’s long term treatment partner, Environcom is a great example of reuse done well. Each “second life” appliance goes through a multi-point treatment check list, before it is made available for sale. This ensures all the functionality and safety checks are complete prior to each unit being supplied to UK Charities. Currently 90% of Environcom’s production is supplied to UK Charities. Environcom has built growing relationships with both Sue Ryder and Barnardo’s over the last 15 years to ensure those most in need and unable to afford brand new white goods can benefit from access to high quality appliances.

Louise Grantham, Chief Executive at REPIC, comments: “The reuse of white goods has gathered momentum in recent years which means far more resources and materials are being kept in circulation for longer. Environcom’s multi point check process provides producers with peace of mind that quality reuse is being offered with safety and longevity checks central to the process.

“With a clear market for second hand white goods and demand currently outweighing supply, our producer members are keen to demonstrate the circular initiatives that have been established to date and see how in the future all legitimate reuse can be recognised irrespective of whether it happens in the official WEEE system.”

Cris Stephenson, Chief Executive at Environcom, continues: “UK legislation now needs to keep up with consumer demand. Previously, the WEEE policies have been too focused only on improving recycling rates and therefore lack the concrete policy support mechanisms we need to attract investment and grow reuse operations. We hope this recent spotlight on reuse will help bring in standardised practices to create a level playing field and continues to help customers save money as well as avoiding unwanted electricals that can be repaired or refurbished from being recycled rather than reused.”

The REPIC WEEE Cycle Network event will conclude on Friday 16th June when the peloton of cyclists pulls into the 15th and final destination in Sittingbourne, Kent around midday. The cyclists will have completed 850 miles across 15 days and raised a total of £15k for local good causes along the way.

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