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Research shows WEEE must do more to establish recycling in London

Enhance is helping engage the market for recycling waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in London. As the capital's dedicated support and development service for business and social enterprise in the recycling sector, enhance has completed its first phase of research leading up to the UK's implementation of the WEEE Directive in 2007.

enhance commissioned Axion Recycling to estimate the material flows of household and business to business (B2B) WEEE in London. This research, funded by the London Development Agency and Environment Agency, reveals there is much to be done before the introduction of the Directive to handle the amount of WEEE.

It was found that over 166,000 tonnes of 'household WEEE' is produced every year in London, an increase of 13% since 1999, which is backed up by London Remade's previous estimate of 170,000 tonnes per year. By 2010, it is estimated that arisings of household WEEE in London will reach 200,000 tonnes per year and that 75% of this could be acquired for recycling.

Each year, every individual in London generates up to 23 kg of WEEE which is significantly higher than the EU target of 4 kg per person to be recycled in the future.

Since 1999, the amount of waste mobile phones has increased 308%, computers 243% and electronic toys 234%. Not only is ownership of most electrical items continuing to increase, due to their reducing cost, but people discard items much sooner, as technology progresses and products are quickly superseded. Microwave ovens are disposed of almost five and a half years earlier than seven years ago and mobile phones are discarded over three and a half years earlier.

69% of domestic WEEE is disposed of in one of three ways: collected by bulky waste services – 20,793 tonnes (16.4%) – taken to a civic amenity site – 47,583 tonnes (30.6%) – or taken back by a retailer – 29,292 tonnes (22%). This WEEE should be easy to capture, record and monitor, when required to do so in the future. enhance believes this will form the 'recordable' tonnage of 'separately collected WEEE' in the future, post implementation of the WEEE Directive and UK Legislation in 2007.

Hugh Smith, Programme Manager, London Remade, said: “enhance is undertaking more research into the flows of WEEE in London. We are already using the information to help establish and develop recycling businesses and social enterprises to manage London's growing WEEE problem.”

enhance has identified that steel and plastic represent 69% of the total 97,800 tonnes of recoverable materials. The 'electrical' fraction represents 16%, including circuit boards and copper-rich motor windings stripped from the equipment before being sent for bulk shredding. enhance is working on developing markets for these materials, as the prospect for large quantities to be recycled will be realised.

The report also highlights the capital's fly-tipping problem, estimating that 2,750 tonnes of WEEE is currently being disposed via this illegal route.

Limited research has been done on the levels of B2B WEEE and there is an insufficient understanding of the processes in place, for example retailer take-back. enhance is undertaking further research into B2B WEEE, as initial results do not include all possible sources.

The full report can be downloaded at www.enhancelondon.co.uk/login/toolkitlogin/toolkit_login.aspx
The model for the data in the report can be found at http://www.capitalwastefacts.com/DataCentre/DataModelling/tabid/76/Default.aspx

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