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Feature: Cool customers

Media images of fridge mountains and problems encountered with various pieces of legislation suggest that dealing with such white goods is an arduous task. But contrary to this perception, the operation is a perfectly simple one — once you have got past all the red tape and ongoing debate.

Overton Recycling director Dean Overton says:
“Once all the planning is done and you have bought
the de-gassing machine, which isn’t cheap, the
process is incredibly simple. It takes about 20 seconds to de-gas the fridge and, in total, about a minute
to break it down into its component parts ready for recycling.”

But getting to this point is a long, drawn-out saga that is only possible in a very limited amount of locations in the UK.

“Getting the waste management licence may appear to be the hard part. It is difficult to gain and is certainly not a simple matter with all the paperwork and checks,” said Overton. “But if you follow certain procedures, it is always possible to get. Planning permission is the really difficult part because if that is refused once, a fridge recycling plant becomes an impossible task.”

The fact that there are fewer than 10 authorised sites operating in the UK pays testament to this, with Overton suggesting that the location that is chosen is key to its success.

“It needs to be a really pro-recycling area, very industrialised and nowhere near any houses,” he says. “Most residents don’t want it in their backyard, and with the horror stories and all sorts of inaccurate tales blown up by the media, you have to be very selective. Especially when the word ‘waste’ is involved. When what we are dealing with becomes ‘refrigeration waste’, then people don’t want it anywhere near them.”

Overton blames the limited potential for companies to operate such sites on the UK’s predominantly home-owning society: “In Germany, it is very different; there are plants right next door to houses. The people are much more recycling-conscious and realise that it is part of what is necessary.

“But a large proportion of Germans rent and if you rent, it isn’t such a big deal. Over here, because such a large percentage of people own their own houses, the main concern is the value of their house going down.”

With this in mind, Overton is possibly positioned in a perfect location, deep in the heart of the heavily industrialised Black Country. But while the company deals with 250,000 items of refrigeration waste each year, Overton believes the Government’s policy of turning brownfield sites into houses will further limit the potential for new companies to move into the market.

On-site in Cradley Heath, the company deals with business and domestic waste mainly through logistic and waste management companies.

Overton says: “We don’t deal with a great amount of domestic appliances as the councils like to deal with companies that offer the complete service, from putting out skips, picking them up, transferring waste and then processing it.”

But with talks ongoing with the European Fridge Manufacturers Association over the implications of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, this potentially could b

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