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Vast amounts of WEEE unaccounted for, says recycler

Plastics that should be reclaimed from Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) could be going to landfill or sent overseas where responsible recycling is not guaranteed, a UK plastics recycler has said.

Confusion over WEEE collection figures from regulators and producer schemes (mrw, May 7 2008) prompted Axion Recycling technical director Keith Freegard to warn that tens of thousands of tonnes of WEEE could be dumped rather than being reprocessed responsibly.

He said: The situation is confused. Im concerned that the figures suggest much of this waste, particularly hard-to-recycle commingled plastic from small household WEEE, is being sent overseas where I doubt it can be reprocessed to our equivalent standards. He previously voiced concerns about overseas rapid, low cost treatments earlier this month (mrw, May 1 2008).

He said that producer figures confirmed estimates that about a million tonnes of WEEE should arise each year. However, he added, only 83,500 had been collected in the last quarter, which equals about 330,000 tonnes a year, not a million.

His concern is that much of the plastic from treated collected material is either being exported or stockpiled rather than being reprocessed.

Based on our experience of WEEE dismantling across all the categories, there should be around 15,000 tonnes of shredded plastic material being passed from primary treatment plants to approved reprocessors from the reported 83,000 tonnes collected in the October to December period.

We know how much has been through our Salford factory in that period and there are currently not many other UK-based WEEE plastics reprocessors. So the majority of this volume must be going overseas perhaps as much as 10,000 tonnes.

He said he was also disappointed in increases in WEEE collected from smaller items. Given that the biggest contributors to collected WEEE tonnages, such as cathode ray tubes and fridges were already being recycled under previous legislation, the marginal increase is disappointing. Only about 15% of the 83,000 tonnes comes from WEEE categories other than large household appliances, refrigerators or displays.


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