Realising the Re-use Value of Household Waste Electricals and Electronic Equipment

1st October 2011

This study investigates Waste Electricals and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) being disposed of via Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs), the reasons for disposal, its state of repair, and its potential value for resale. 

Overview

Overview

Since April 2011, WRAP has initiated new streams of work with the aim of diverting more potentially reusable and recyclable waste away from disposal. Projects include designing out waste and incentivising waste prevention, and WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) is one of WRAP’s prioritised material streams.

This project has investigated the nature of WEEE being brought to Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) and collected by local authority bulky waste services. Specifically it examines the potential for this WEEE to be reused, and estimates its monetary value. It also seeks to understand the reasons why householders are choosing to dispose of their WEEE, and their assessment of its worth.

Conclusions

Conclusions

  • The most common items being disposed of at HWRCs comprised consumer equipment, followed by small household appliances. Large household appliances were the most common WEEE items being collected by council bulky collections.
  • The main reason for disposing of WEEE at both the HWRC and via bulky collections was because the item was broken (51% and 38% respectively), followed by those respondents who said they no longer wanted the item.
  • When asked why they did not repair broken items, nearly half (47%) of respondents at the HWRC said it was cheaper to replace rather than repair the item, while for bulky collected WEEE the main reason for not repairing the item was that it was broken beyond repair (33%). These responses correlate with the type of WEEE being disposed of via each channel.
  • Generally WEEE was not damaged whilst being stored to take to the HWRC or to be collected by bulky waste collection. Just 6% of WEEE brought to the HWRC was not in the same condition as it was when it was decided to dispose of it, and 8% of bulky collected WEEE was not in same condition on collection.
  • Almost one third of respondents bringing WEEE to the HWRC assessed the item to be fully reusable in its current condition, and over half (56%) graded it as economically viable for reuse although it may need some slight or moderate repair. Just 11% thought it was total waste.
  • Bulky collected WEEE was less likely to be considered fully reusable in current condition (22%). Just over half (53%) of bulky collected WEEE was, however, considered economically viable for reuse with some repair, while 18% was considered total waste.
  • The technical assessments carried out on a sub sample of WEEE diverted from HWRCs evaluated the proportion available for immediate reuse to be less than respondents thought, although 23% were evaluated to be economically viable for resale - half of which required minor repairs and half major repairs. Around one quarter of WEEE which was technically assessed had no recoverable resale or recyclable value at all.
  • The technical assessments found that CRT items are essentially without repair or resale value and also have high disposal costs. In addition, whilst fridges and freezers have significant resale value if they are functioning, they are otherwise not economically repairable – although they can have scrap value.
  • Large and small domestic appliances offer the greatest potential for repair and restoration and also derive most value as recyclable parts. In terms of resale values, small domestic appliances generate the highest resale values (£1,550 per tonne).
  • Top end estimates suggest £220 million in resale value could be obtained from the repair, refurbishment and open market resale of WEEE from HWRCs. Nearly three quarters of this value comes from small domestic appliances – this would appear to be the material type with greatest potential economic recovery value. Taking into consideration repair costs and acquisition costs, the gross margin could be around £106 million for HWRC WEEE.
  • WDF estimates suggest 89,000 tonnes of WEEE are also disposed of in residual waste at the HWRC annually, and crude estimates suggest that the annual resale value of this WEEE (which has a greater percentage of small WEEE) may be in region of £28 million.
  • The estimated resale value of WEEE collected via bulky waste collections is around £77 million, of which 61% (£47 million) arises from large domestic appliances and 32% (£25 million) from small appliances.
  • The research has found that there is the potential to generate a large amount of resale value from the repair, refurbishment and open market resale of WEEE. At HWRCs the greatest resale value would be generated from small domestic WEEE, whereas large domestic appliances would contribute the greatest proportion of the potential resale value from bulky collected WEEE.

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