Every year an estimated 2 million tonnes of WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) items are discarded by householders and companies in the UK.
You may have a general sense that putting electrical items and batteries in the bin is the wrong thing to do but maybe you don’t really know why.
In 2013 the government introduced the WEEE regulations. The regulations state that producers of non-household WEEE are obligated to finance the cost of collection, treatment, recovery and environmentally sound disposal. This action was taken because if WEEE is burnt or landfilled lots of valuable resources would be lost including significant quantities of gold. The air, soil and water could also be polluted with harmful chemicals.
The University of Westminster has its WEEE collected by Suez who then take it to Sweeep Kuusakoski in Sittingbourne, Kent. We went to check out what happened to it as part of our duty of care, a responsibility we have to make sure our waste is disposed of properly.
Sweeep have a highly efficient process that recycles over 94% of what it receives. After manual inspection a machine spins apart the different parts of an electrical item. Next the different parts that make up irons, computers, hairdryers etc. are separated into different piles. Machines can visually identify circuit boards and separate them using air jets as well as use magnets to separate metals.
For more information visit the website of Sweep which has some excellent videos.
Westminster staff should explore options for reuse before using our WEEE bins, for example you can return computers to IT who can return them to the manufacturer for reuse.
He has a degree in Environmental Management and Geography and completed an MSc in Sustainability, Planning and Environmental Policy.