Newly-formed AO Recycling unveils 'game-changing' WEEE recycling plant

Online electrical products retailer AO has completed the acquisition of The Recycling Group (TRG) and established a new recycling branch, AO Recycling, which it says is now the UK’s largest fridge recycling company.

AO Recycling will aim to recycle more than 700,000 fridges a year – one-fifth of all fridges disposed of annually in the UK – at its new fridge and large domestic appliance (LDA) recycling plant in Telford, which the company says will ‘set a new standard’ in recovering metals, plastics and gases out of old fridges.

The 75,000 square-foot plant opened this spring, prior to the acquisition being announced. Oils, refrigerants and dangerous gases are removed by operators to ensure safe disposal, before a shredding machine built by Austrian company Andritz is used to fragment more than 100 fridges every hour. Ferrous and non-ferrous metals, plastics and insulation foam are then separated and sorted onsite.

Following the acquisition, TRG has closed its recycling plant in Powys, Wales to facilitate the new operation in Telford, 40 miles away. AO says that the move will create 200 jobs at its Telford site.

‘Game-changing’ potential

More than 260,000 tonnes of fridges were sold in the UK in 2016, equating to around five million separate units, with 3.5 million thrown away every year, and Anthony Sant, Sales and Marketing Director at AO Recycling, says that the increase in electrical items being sold presents a challenge for the recycling industry. He said: “As a retailer we are constantly looking for ways we can take on all aspects of the supply chain, whether it is sales or logistics.

“We want to build on TRG’s knowledge and expertise to change the way the UK recycles domestic appliances at their end of life. We will significantly increase UK WEEE recycling capacity and aim to deliver industry-leading materials recovery rates.”

The new site will also process other large WEEE items including washing machines, tumble driers and dishwashers. AO will take away any old appliances when it delivers new ones ordered from its website and recycle or refurbish them, alongside any packaging from the new products at the Telford plant.

Sant added: “With the launch of AO Recycling, it means we can play our part as a retailer in ensuring our customers’ old products don’t end up in landfill but are given a new lease of life – either through recycling or reuse. Customers demand us to take away their old appliances and AO has a duty of care to deal with them in the best and most responsible way.”

Steve Caunce, CEO at AO, added: “AO and TRG have been a perfect match from the very beginning and together we’re excited to transform the way electrical appliances are recycled in the UK. The plant we have built in Telford will set new standards and take the industry to another level.

 “We anticipate the new company will make a significant contribution to meeting UK recycling targets for fridges and other Large Domestic Appliances. In our first year we are aiming to recycle more than one fifth of the fridges thrown away annually. This has the potential to be a game-changer for the industry.”

AO World, the group that oversees each of AO’s businesses, recorded pre-tax losses of £7 million last year, with the company warning that its growth would slow ‘significantly’ in the first quarter of the new financial year as consumer confidence in the UK falls.