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Driving change

Local authorities are past masters at changing their waste services in response to EU legislation. In the London Borough of Bexley, recycling officers have made changes early to be in line with the End-of-Life Vehicles (ELV) Directive and the Waste Electrical Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive.

The borough offers residents free collection of ELVs and bring banks for WEEE. Bexley recycling officer Rebecca Cooper says that by responding to legislation, abandoned vehicles are no longer seen in the borough, while more and more small electrical items are recycled.

The ELV Directive provided the perfect reason for Bexley to review its policy of dealing with abandoned vehicles. Cooper says: There wasnt any kind of scheme in place, and it would take weeks to get a car off the street. When deciding how to tackle the problem, Cooper says it made sense to make sure any changes were in line with the ELV Directive.

As the result of research undertaken by Bexley and European Metal Recycling (EMR), two schemes were devised. In February Bexley began a free takeback service for residents cars. Those wishing to offload their ELVs simply call the council, which then comes to their home or place of work to collect and dispose of the vehicle free of charge. The Association of London Government (ALG) contributes £30 per vehicle for the first three years of the project, after which time the council will cover the costs.

All the vehicles collected are then passed onto vehicle recyclers with depollution rigs in line with the ELV Directive. Bexleys second project to deal with ELVs was operation Cube It. The project, which ran part-time from June 2002 and full time from January this year, is funded by Bexley, the ALG, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and local housing associations. It is also supported by the police and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. Any abandoned vehicle is removed from the streets and put in a car pound. Owners have seven days to come forward before the vehicles are sent for depollution and recycling. The number of abandoned cars on Bexleys roads has decreased by 67% since the introduction of the free takeback scheme and operation Cube It.

Bexleys handling of the WEEE Directive came from opportunity rather than necessity. Cooper admits it wasnt Bexleys idea to develop a WEEE recycling scheme. She says: EMR came to us because they had electrical equipment coming into their metal recycling bins and suggested working together on some research.


Bexley and EMR investigated which electrical goods were coming into their recycling centres. Seventy-four percent of the WEEE collected at the sites was large household appliances. Small electrical items are no less numerous than the larger appliances, which suggested to Bexley that residents were only making trips to recycling centres to get rid of the larger household appliances that had broken down, such as washing machines, dishwashers and stereos.

To solve this problem, Bexley introduced WEEE bring banks, which meant residents did not have to make a special trip to one of its two recycling centres. With a £16,000 grant from London Remade, Bexley installed 20 bring banks for small WEEE around the borough, with collections of the banks made by Salvation Army Trading.

London Remade also gave Bexley a £5,500 grant for a reuse container at each of its two recycling centres. This has been added to the existing containers for small and large WEEE. Cooper admits it was initially difficult to get residents to segregate small and large WEEE but says that it is simply a case of getting the public used to recycling electrical items. Through the bring banks and improved signage more small WEEE is being recycled in Bexley. It now represents 43.13% of electrical appliances deposited at its banks.

Looking to the future, Cooper hopes that producers will help local authorities with funding. She says: The £16,000 from London Remade was only for the bring banks. Collection is expensive

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