AO recycling plant to process a fifth of UK fridges
Europe’s biggest white goods recycling plant has officially opened in Shropshire, capable of processing over 700,000 fridges every year.
Resources Minister Therese Coffey was on site at the Halesfield business park in Telford on Monday (30 April) for the opening of the plant, which is run by AO Recycling. The company was set up when online electrical goods retailer AO acquired The Recycling Group (TRG) in 2017, and claims to be the largest recycler of white goods in the UK, creating 200 new jobs at the Shropshire facility.
Fridges and other large waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) are stripped and shredded in an 80-tonne machine built by Austrian company Andritx, which can process more than 100 appliances every hour, before being separated into their recyclable elements. AO Recycling hopes its Telford facility will provide an end-of-life destination for a fifth of all the fridges thrown away annually in the UK, with most of the items coming from AO customers and retailers.
Robert Sant, AO Recycling’s Managing Director, commented: “Every year we throw away more than three million fridges in the UK, as well as millions of other household electrical items. Our facility in Telford will play a central role in making sure we dispose of these items properly.”
With the news in March that the UK missed its collection targets for WEEE in 2017 by almost 100,000 tonnes, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has proposed reducing 2018 targets by 14 per cent, drawing criticism from a collection of WEEE reprocessors. The AATF (Approved Authorised Treatment Facility) Forum, of which AO is a member along with 80 per cent of the UK’s WEEE recyclers, claimed the new targets ‘lack ambition’. Large household appliances as a specific category of WEEE also came in below target, with 182,189 tonnes collected, falling some way short of the 232,811-tonne target.
AO’s Marketing and Sales Director, Anthony Sant, wrote in Resource earlier this year that the UK’s approach to WEEE collection and recycling needs a complete overhaul: ‘The key change that needs to happen is to switch from household disposal of WEEE items at end of life to retailer collection. In other words, it needs to be made easier and cheaper for consumers to return their unwanted appliance to the retailer when they buy a new one.
‘This approach is good for the consumer and the environment. Currently, there is about a one-in-four chance that an old appliance will be taken back by the retailer when a customer buys a new one. Our aim is to see this increase significantly in the coming years.’
Speaking at the opening of the Telford plant, Therese Coffey said: “This is a significant step by a British business to increase our capacity to recycle fridges and other electrical household appliances, in what is the biggest facility of its kind in Europe here in Telford.
“We all have a responsibility to our environment and it is only through businesses, consumers, and government working together that we will recycle more and protect our environment for the next generation.”