Biffa collects 400 tonnes of household WEEE

21st April 2015 – Municipal services contractor Biffa has collected over 400 tonnes of small waste household electrical and electronic items (WEEE) since it broke new ground with the launch of its innovative service just over three years ago.

First launched in Woking in December 2011, the Biffa initiative lets residents put out bags of small WEEE (hair dryers, MP3 players, toasters, irons and the like) alongside their usual recycling or refuse containers on scheduled collection days.

Since Woking’s launch, a further 13 Biffa client councils have introduced this great value service for their residents. Records show that in the period from December 2011to the end of February 2015, 404.33 tonnes of small WEEE had been collected and so diverted from expensive and unnecessary disposal as waste.

Problem becomes opportunity

With hundreds of thousands of tonnes of WEEE generated each year in the UK*, Biffa saw what many regarded as a waste problem as a recycling opportunity. It developed and launched a ground-breaking initiative to help councils tackle this very specific and ‘difficult’ waste stream with its inherent high recycling value.

Unlike the one-off or occasional WEEE collection drives mounted by some, Biffa felt that residents could be offered a regular collection service that was easy to use and reliable.

Bagged WEEE is collected by Biffa crews as part of their normal rounds, placing them in underbody cages fitted to Biffa’s collection vehicles. The cages are then emptied into larger holding containers at Biffa’s depots and then transported to authorised WEEE reprocessors through Biffa’s compliance scheme, Transform.

Biffa is able to defray costs for WEEE collection, handling, storage and bulk haulage and treatment through the funding provided by Transform and any value that can be gained from the WEEE.

The WEEE service is often offered along with other added services, such as collections of waste batteries and textiles.

Easy Win Service

Pete Dickson, Biffa Municipal’s commercial director, said: “Small WEEE collections at the kerbside are seen by local authorities as an easy win for them, for Biffa, and for residents.

“The service has high value as it’s an easy, intuitive way for residents to capture and recycle a difficult waste stream, and they respond accordingly.”

Dickson commented that it has been known for WEEE left out for collection to be illegally taken by others, which Biffa reports to local police.

He added that Biffa is working with vehicle suppliers to meet the challenge presented by the new Euro 6 class of vehicles which have less space available for underbody cages.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills recently announced that the nation’s 2015 collection target for small mixed household WEEE is just over 137,000 tonnes. The UK narrowly missed its 2014 small mixed WEEE target of just over 126,000 tonnes by less than 1%, but did beat its overall WEEE target.

This category broadly comprises small household appliances, IT and telecoms equipment, consumer and lighting equipment, electrical and electronic tools, toys, leisure and sports equipment, medical devices and the like.

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* According to a UN University report published last week, Britain was fifth in the list of countries that produced the most electrical and electronic waste per head in 2014. Top was Norway, with 28.4kg (62.5lbs) per capita, followed by Switzerland (26.3kg), Iceland (26.1kg), Denmark (24.0kg), Britain (23.5kg), the Netherlands (23.4kg), Sweden (22.3kg), France (22.2kg) and the United States and Austria (22.1kg).

In 2014, almost 42 million tonnes of e-waste was dumped. The UN report says that recoverable and recyclable waste was worth $52 billion, including 300 tonnes of gold (equal to 11% of the world’s gold production in 2013).

Almost 60% of the e-waste by weight came from large and small kitchen, bathroom and laundry appliances, while 7% was from discarded mobile phones, calculators, personal computers and printers, and the like.

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