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UK research: WEEE reuse worth millions

United Kingdom – Almost a quarter of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) thrown out each year by consumers could be reused, generating more than £220 million (US$ 340 million) in the process, according to the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

The UK-based research agency looked at the potential reuse value for items disposed of by consumers at household waste recycling centres and via local authority-run bulky waste collections, concluding that there is potential to create high resale value from repair, refurbishment and open market resale.

‘We found that 23% of all the WEEE collected at recycling centres could have been either sold on straight away, or resold after repair and refurbishment,’ observes WRAP’s project manager for products and materials Lucy Keal. ‘This in turn could generate gross revenues of more than £220 million a year – and even after taking account of the costs involved in acquiring the waste items and repairing or refurbishing them, this could still realise profits of more than £100 million.’

WRAP’s calculations are based on annual totals of 348 000 tonnes of WEEE taken to recycling sites, and a further 149 000 tonnes gathered in bulky waste collections.

‘As you’d expect, the resale values vary depending on the categories,’ she says. ‘Smaller items typically have lower reuse potential but the proportion that is reusable has a higher value than other categories. Large domestic appliances such as washing machines offer good potential value, from reuse, use of parts or from scrap, and make up 61% of the resale value from the bulky waste collections. Fridges and freezers offer particularly good reuse potential if they’re still working.’

Ms Keal adds:  ‘This research demonstrates the crucial importance of promoting the reuse of WEEE. We’re currently throwing away equipment that’s in perfect working order, or could be easily repaired or refurbished for someone else to use. Consumers often assume it will be cheaper to replace items rather than have them repaired, but it’s clear from our research that there’s real value to be had from these discarded goods.’

The WRAP report can be downloaded here

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