The firm worked with the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) on a funded project to close the electrical loop.
Indesit, in collaboration with WRAP and plastic recycler Axion Recycling, spent many months investigating the potential to extract plastic materials from the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) stream and recycle them for use in the manufacture of new products.
Speaking to MRW WRAP products sector manager Gerrard Fisher said it represented a step change in UK manufacturing. He said: Its the first time that mixed WEEE plastic has been closed-loop recycled into a new electronic product for a major company. It shows that plastics from the UK WEEE Collective Producer Responsibility model can be recovered to a quality fit for use in a brand new electronic product.
The project has enabled Indesit to introduce a new cover plate on two premium washing machine models the Hotpoint Aquarius and Ultima. The plate uses 100% recycled content, sourced from UK WEEE.
The material has been produced using shredded plastic waste recovered from domestic fridges and made into a high grade polymer that has a similar weight to the virgin plastic it is replacing.
The results of the project coincided with the launch of new research from WRAP, which reveals that many consumers would favour an electronic product containing recycled content at point of purchase, if price, functionality and reliability were equal to substitute them.
WRAP now plans to work with other companies to further explore the benefits of this innovative approach.
Fisher said that Indesit make over 500,000 washing machines each year at their Kimmel Park facility in Clwyd, Wales. Parts for these products have to be carefully designed to ensure that they fulfil their function on the product.
Indesit company environment manager Mike Birch commented: Having successfully completed the trial, we now plan to roll out the innovation to a range of our washing machines and washer dryers that are produced each year. The cumulative cost and raw material savings will be significant. For us the improved price was an enabler to help deliver a project with environmental benefits we felt it was the right thing to do.
We are considering how further environmental improvements and savings can be made by using recycled content within other components and parts, throughout our manufacturing operation.
Fisher said: We intend to replicate this work into more electronic product sectors and will shortly release a tender looking for other industry leaders to step forward and use recycled UK WEEE plastic.
Image: Indesit company WEEE from particles to plastic