And, the company behind the plant says its opening is the first step in an “ambitious” plan to transform the way waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is recycled.
AO Recycling’s multi-million pound facility, which is located in Telford, will process more than 25% of the UK’s disposed fridges, the company has said. This equates to 700,000 appliances.
As well as fridges, the plant will also process washing machines, dishwashers, tumble driers and other household electrical waste.
The move is part of a bid by the company to shift the emphasis in UK WEEE recycling to retailer take-back.
When opening the plant, Dr Coffey commended AO, and outlined her belief in the importance of co-operation across the supply chain to increase household appliance recycling rates.
The Environment minister said: “This is a significant step by a British business to increase our capacity to recycle fridges and other electrical household appliances.
“Although collection and recycling of household electrical items is increasing, we all have a responsibility to our environment and it is only through businesses, consumers, and government working together that we will recycle more and protect our environment for the next generation.”
AO Recycling says that most of the appliances arriving at the site for recycling, or for refurbishment and resale, will have arrived from AO.com customers who have purchased a new product.
Commenting on the opening of the plant, AO Recycling’s Anthony Sant said the facility is the first step in an “ambitious” plan to transform the way WEEE is recycled.
Mr Sant said: “It’s the biggest investment in UK fridge recycling in more than a decade and will play a vital role in ensuring we have the capacity needed to deal with the millions of appliances which are thrown away every year.
“Bringing together electrical retailing and recycling makes sense from an efficiency perspective and an environmental perspective. It’s right that AO.com as a retailer should take-back unwanted appliances from customers when delivering new products – and from there it’s a natural progression to also take on responsibility for recycling them properly.”
The recycling plant is equipped with cutting-edge technology to handle all aspects of the complex fridge and LDA recycling process.
For fridges which have reached the end of their working life, the first stage of the recycling process involves removing hazardous oils and refrigerants, as well as valuable compressors.
Following this, using a company-exclusive 80 tonne machine built by Austrian firm Andritz, the fridges are smashed to their constituent metals, plastics and insulation foam using heavy duty rotating steel chains which operate inside a sealed chamber.
Dangerous gases including CFCs in older fridges and pentane in newer ones are also safely removed during the process.