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LARAC Scholars invited for preview of the UK’s first compressor recycling facility 

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The Environcom site tour was followed by an engaging roundtable discussion about the role Local Authorities can play in increasing reuse of LDAs and unwanted EEE.

As well as seeing the new machinery first-hand, the scholars were also given a full tour of both the recycling and reuse areas of the Environcom plant. This was followed by a roundtable discussion, exploring how Local Authorities can influence greater reuse of unwanted electrical and electronic equipment (EEE).

Scholars, both past and present, travelled from all over the country to attend the event. Representatives came from a number of Local Authorities including Chesterfield, Oxford, Rutland, East Riding, North Norfolk and Wakefield. Joshua Doherty, Senior Reporter of Lets Recycle, chaired the roundtable talk in the afternoon.

During the tour, the scholars were amazed to see just how much unwanted high quality EEE is actually reused by the Environcom team. Attendees were very excited to see the new machinery and how much copper is actually in a compressor. Christened CARRIE (Compressor Automated Removal and Recycling Equipment), the machinery is only the second of its kind in Europe and enables the safe dismantling of compressors from refrigerators and other cooling appliances.

CARRIE will process around 10,000 compressors every week, and is estimated to generate up to 28 tonnes of copper and 252 tonnes of steel each month, which will be returned into manufacturing to reduce the extraction of virgin raw materials. On the tour we watched the machinery in operation, from inputting the compressor to the machine, through to the copper and steel extraction at the end of the process.

In the afternoon, scholars were invited to discuss reuse from designated collection facilities (DCFs) and the barriers facing Local Authorities. Currently over 99% of Environcom’s reuse items come from retailer collected goods and less than 1.0% from council run sites, yet 38% of its inbound volume comes from such sites. Based on their experiences, scholars shared their views and suggestions for potential opportunities to increasing reuse from DCFs, while also discussing the barriers to this.

Andy Mayes from East Riding Council shared his experiences of a consumer reuse campaign that’s currently ongoing in his region, in collaboration with a local charity. This insight served as a great example of how, with the right social media and advertising, and a great outlet for the products, Local Authorities can influence changes in consumer behaviour to encourage increases in reuse of unwanted EEE and other household items.

Storage space and resources were some of the main challenges to holding items for reuse from HWRCs.  Cris Stephenson, CEO of Environcom, suggested potential solutions for short term storage.

“The crucial point is that attitudes need to change first and foremost. People need to start to see the value of their ‘waste’ and realise unwanted electricals aren’t always actually ‘waste’ and can be reused by other people,” he added.

The group then went on to discuss a number of other contributing factors that might impact on what is reported as reuse and understanding how many products are already being reused;  some used products will be classified as WEEE and go through authorised treatment facilities which are funded through producer compliance, whilst other reuse may be taking place through donation and not classified as WEEE. As a local authority the best thing to do is to work with your compliance scheme to find the right approach.    Longer-term, EU standards are being developed which support reuse, repairability and recycling.

Scholars also discussed the problems of theft – both at HWRC sites and before the WEEE arrives into site – with some potential solutions shared. The debate covered retail’ ‘take-back’ and LA collections as ways of getting higher quality large appliances for reuse and reducing theft. By making small changes to the existing procedure for bulky waste collection, such as spending an extra minute on the phone to ask consumers if their old EEE is still in working order or might be repairable, could help in targeting products for potential reuse.

It was fantastic to see the collaborative approach around the table, with everybody really engaged in exploring ways to improve recycling and reuse.

Collaboration is key to delivering a circular economy.  REPIC has been supporting the LARAC Scholars for 5 years now. It’s exciting to see where these kinds of discussions and partnerships take us on this circular economy journey.

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