Residents reminded to not put electrical items in household waste
The British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) released a reminder on Tuesday (7 April) reminding householders not to throw waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in general waste or recycling.
With lockdown measures in place, leading to disruption in waste and recycling services, including the closure of Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) where WEEE can often be deposited, the BMRA are concerned that households will be tempted to put WEEE in residual waste and not wait to safely dispose of items leading to heightened risk for waste workers.
Household waste collections are not designed to handle WEEE, with many electrical items containing lithium ion batteries, which when tampered with or crushed in a refuse collection vehicle’s (RCV) compactor can explode or cause a fire. Furthermore, harmful substances can leak out of electrical equipment, causing harm to the environment and human health.
Commenting on the disposal of WEEE, James Kelly, CEO of the BMRA, said: “WEEE or e-waste is one of the fastest growing ‘waste’ streams in the UK and requires specialist handling and treatment. When not dealt with correctly it poses a risk not only to the environment, but for the workers that handle it. Let’s not cause any additional risk to these workers at this already trying time.”
He continued: “We are encouraging people to follow the government advice and stay at home, and to urge them to keep hold of their WEEE until such time the current restrictions on movement are relaxed or removed. Once this happens, householders will be able, once again, to take their old electrical items to a local HWRC or a BMRA member that can handle this type of material.”
Recolight, a compliance scheme for lamps and lighting classed as WEEE, is aware that some waste operators’ collection containers for lamps and lighting may reach capacity and offered to supply an additional container to allow the safe storage of additional waste. This comes amid a relaxation of waste storage rules was made by a regulatory position statement from the Environment Agency (EA) published on Tuesday (7 April).
However, Recolight Network, a facility for dropping off small quantities of waste lamps and luminaires for both consumers and businesses at designated collection points around the country, has been temporarily closed.
In a bid to limit disruption to waste services, guidance has been released for local authorities and waste management companies to protect workers and keep priority services running. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) released non-statutory guidance on Tuesday (7 April) to provide advice on how local authorities can keep key waste collections running as smoothly as possible during the crisis.
In addition to this, the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum published its finalised guidance on 2 April surrounding reducing the risk of transmission of Covid-19 among waste workers.