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Feature: WEEE recovery in the city

Invited to bring along anything with a plug that they no longer use, householders in Lambeth proved that, given the opportunity, people are more than willing to gather up their electroscrap ready for recycling.

A partnership initiative between Lambeth Council, London Remade, Recycle Western Riverside, Waste Watch, Hewlett Packard, Valpak and Technowaste, a WEEE take-back day was held on March 18 in the London Borough of Lambeth, and was a success in terms of both turnout and tonnage.

“We didn’t really know what to expect from the day,” says Gianluca Forlani, senior project manager at London Remade. “I thought I’d be happy if 100 people turned up, but in the end we had 130 residents and collected 3.6 tonnes of equipment for recycling, filling the container that had been provided by Technowaste.”

A total of 587 items were brought in by residents and included video recorders, washing machines, laptops and telephones. All the materials were collected by Technowaste which took them for recycling at its reprocessing plant where the technology ensures a material recovery of more than 90%.

The day was part of the Recycle Western Riverside campaign, targeting materials that are not currently collected in the borough. According to Forlani, one initial idea was to run the event next to an electrical retail store, but demands for space meant that it was held next to Lambeth’s Vale Street civic amenity (CA) site, where there is a large, unused area. This also meant that the event caught people who were just going into the CA site.

The event ran from 9am to 4pm, with a steady flow of people right from the start. The day had been publicised in Lambeth’s newsletter, with leaflets in electrical retailers and door-to-door leafleting the day before.

Five members of staff were on hand to monitor what people thought of the event, log and weight the items, and help with traffic flow. Residents who brought along WEEE responded positively to the event — 60% already knew that WEEE could be recycled and many people commented that there “should be a regular take-back day”, that it was a “great idea” and “long overdue”.

Forlani said: “This shows that people are keen to do their bit for the environment and that when facilities are made available to them, it is so easy. It also reinforced the need for the WEEE Directive to be implemented as soon as possible in order for such facilities to become permanently and widely available.”

As the day was a low-budget event, Forlani says that technically it would be easy to replicate, but needs the strong support of a number of partners and of the local authority, as they had.

“We were very pleased with the way the day went and the response we had to it,” adds Forlani. “If we were to repeat the event, I would think about separating out materials that are reusable because a relevant percentage fell into this category on the day and were in good working order. But for this first event we just
focused on recycling.”

Although there are no plans at the moment to repeat the event, London Remade is keeping a strong focus on electroscrap and is currently researching WEEE flows in London. The objective of the research is to build up a business case for reprocessing plants in the capital which, due to the large amount of business-to-business activity, is the UK’s single biggest generator of WEEE.

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