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Feature: Sets and sensibility

Rade UK, based near Cardiff, is a young business that specialises in dis-assembling electronic products that contain cathode ray tubes (CRTs) such as TV sets and computer monitors. Since opening its doors in September 2005, Rade managing director Alun Haines says business has been swift and exceeded expectations. “We thought we’d have a gradual, steady increase in business, but things took off quickly,” he explains.

The delayed implementation of the WEEE Directive does not seem to have adversely affected Rade. Haines explains that most of his customers are local authorities, which have been given help by the Government to get through the delays.

The Department for Trade and Industry announced that it would meet any costs to local authorities of arranging the treatments required for any TVs and monitors that contain CRTs and fluorescent lamps collected separately for disposal in advance of the WEEE regulations being implemented. So where authorities have chosen to start pro-cedures for collecting and disposing of WEEE waste ahead of the legislation coming into force, they will not be penalised.

According to Haines, lots of local authorities are mindful of the directive coming into play, and are putting their strategies for dealing with it into place. Some colleges and schools are also clients, but Haines says there are many businesses and schools that are ignorant about the impending legislation for dealing with hazardous waste.

Rade is addressing this by sending out an introduction pack to potential customers in the area, explaining their legal obligations. As the pack is in its infancy, the company has not had any feedback on it so far. But Haines explains that there is a large number of local schools that are probably storing a lot of their old electronic and electrical equipment, and possibly refurbishing one or two of their old computers. When the time comes for them to dispose of the products, Haines says the realisation of their obligations will then hit home and may come as something of a shock.

Haines set up the business with former Panasonic colleague Richard Compton. The idea was born when the two faced redundancy after Panasonic announced it would stop the production of TVs and set-top boxes in its Welsh factory at the end of 2004. As they both worked in the TV development side of the business and were involved with the design and manufacture of sets, they thought of how they could re-use their skills.

“We banged our heads together to find a method of setting up a company,” Haines says. They had heard of one firm that disassembled electronic waste containing CRTs in Germany, and found that much of the UK’s WEEE waste was being shipped to Europe for disposal. Realising that the process was essentially the reverse of what they had been used to, the two approached the Wales Environment Trust (WET) and Venture Wales for help.

Haines confesses that both he and Compton had “no idea about the environmental sector”, so faced a steep learning curve with the environmental legislation involved. As they both had engineering backgrounds, they also knew little about setting up a business — an area where WET and Venture Wales were of great support.

Rade collects the waste, mainly from civic amenity sites, and dismantles the items before baling the sep-arated components and sending them off to reprocessors. Plastics and metals are passed on for recycling in this way, and Haines says the only difficulty they have found i

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