WEEE update: Making ICT last
William McPherson, Projects Director at Re-tek, takes us through the latest developments in the WEEE recycling and reuse sector
Making Things Last, the Scottish Government’s circular economy strategy, recognises the need for reuse activities across all sectors, from construction to manufacturing to food and drink. With this drive for circularity, and reuse and remanufacture in particular, asset disposal and management services for Information & Communications Technology (ICT) is in high demand. Services of secure logistics, date erasure, repair and refurbishment, plus sales activities, allow companies to offer an income-sharing model with our client base. With data- bearing products, such as laptops, PCs and servers, holding company or personal confidential information, security for ICT is paramount.
From taking custody at the client’s facility, to processing, each individual product is strictly controlled to support the detailed reporting and erasure certification provided at the completion of each batch.
In 2016, Re-Tek processed approximately 160,000 products, the majority from our well established business-to-business (B2B) clients like local authorities, oil and gas and financial institutions. Re-Tek is looking to provide a similar service to the consumer market (consumer-to-business (C2B)). To develop this opportunity, we have identified a number of innovative models, targeting the development of relationships with the following sectors: retailers, third sector organisations, the education sector, local authorities, and private sector partnerships, to collect redundant householder ICT equipment.
Consumer surveys have identified that the factors that are important to potential donors are: ease of donation, confidence that the data will be professionally destroyed, and ensuring a community benefit.
Therefore, it is crucial to develop collaborations with third sector organisations to enable the early capture of householder ICT products, who would then benefit from an additional revenue stream through our income sharing model.
The scheme is currently available to domestic residents to donate unwanted ICT items involves the use of local household waste recycling centres (HWRC), where a container is typically made available for any waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). However, these sites are often set up without consideration of how equipment should be handled and stored to maximise potential for re-use and resale, e.g. open containers with no weather protection.
The result is that equipment is almost always subsequently managed for recycling markets, rather than resale which, given the employability and revenue opportunities available through expansion of reuse and repair activities, is a loss to our economy. Third sector organisations are particularly at a loss as they can support collections by utilising close local authority relationships, whether this is through access to reuse containers within the HWRC, or capturing the product prior to entry to the HWRC.
There are also opportunities to collect ICT in the workplace and in education establishments to allow effortless donations on the way to work or to study. Donors need to be confident that all personal data will be securely erased, verified by data destruction certificates.
Complementing the work in the C2B sector, there is opportunity for organisations to be involved in the EU Life Critical Raw Material (CRM) Recovery project. The idea is for companies to establish donation points in schools, student halls of residence, HWRCs and private organisations to enable householders to donate used ICT equipment. Items collected are data-wiped, assessed for reuse, and a sample of printed circuit boards were selected to support trials by partners Enscape and the University of the West of Scotland on the recovery of gold, silver and cobalt. The project, active in the UK, Germany, Italy and Czech Republic, hopes to increase the recovery of CRMs by five per cent by 2020 and by 20 per cent in 2030. Success in this project will improve access to those elements required to support future manufacturing activities.
Looking forward, we would welcome the introduction of WEEE reuse targets. We believe that these will help to drive forward the circular economy, develop collaborations between charitable and private sector organisations and encourage consumers to think about how unwanted technology is treated at the end of life.