Resource Use

5 local authorities collect 50 tonnes of WEEE

Electronic waste

Five local authorities using a new Biffa collection service have saved more than 50 tonnes of WEEE and batteries from landfill, say the waste management company.

Biffa introduced the new collection service last year to provide a low-cost solution to the problem of WEEE disposal, often considered a 'difficult' waste stream in household refuse.

Residents of Woking, Surrey Heath, Stafford, Mole Valley and Swale Borough Councils who received the collections, put batteries and small, domestic WEEE in carrier bags alongside their normal collection bins.

Those bags were then picked up on regular collection days alongside waste and recycling, and placed in an under-body cage fitted to the collection vehicles.

All collected WEEE was then deposited at a Biffa depot and transported to an authorised WEEE reprocessor (MDJ Light Bros in the south and EMR in Liverpool for the north).

According to Biffa, benefits of the scheme include allowing local authorities to collect WEEE and batteries with no additional collection days, and no new vehicles.

Of the five authorities to adopt the Biffa collection scheme, three (Woking, Surrey Heath and Swale Borough Councils) won one-off grants from an electrical retailer-backed fund to cover their start-up costs, making them cost-neutral.

For Stafford and Mole Valley, who began the programme without grants, Biffa says costs remain low due to the income Biffa earns from the sale of WEEE to reprocessors, as well as recycling evidence notes certified by the Transform compliance scheme.

Woking, which launched its weekly collection programme in December 2011, has since collected more than 22 tonnes of small WEEE, one tonne of batteries, and more than nine tonnes of televisions (recovered during a 'television amnesty' linked to the digital switchover). 

Stafford, which launched its fortnightly programme in April, has recovered more than ten tonnes of WEEE and approximately 500 kg of waste batteries.

Swale and Surrey Heath, which also began weekly and fortnightly (respectively) collections in April, have collected more than three tonnes of small WEEE each. Mole Valley began its fortnightly programme this month (September 2012).

"Compared to general recycling volumes, these tonnages may seem small", said Pete Dickson, Development Director for Biffa's municipal division, "but they reflect the successful, and growing, diversion of a 'new' domestic waste stream.

"This diversion means no landfilling of WEEE that has a potentially long environmentally-toxic life, and the recovery of high value components and materials for recycling, reuse and remanufacture."

Dickson said that interest in the collection service is promising, with around 20 local authorities – half of their customer base – registering their interest in the concept.

"We're confident that our initiative will be adopted by more authorities attracted by its practicality, performance and very modest financial commitment."