South East England is set to get a major fridge recycling facility under a project planned by online electricals recycler AO.
The company, which is close to finalising the as yet unnamed location, takes back large volumes of white goods from London and the South East and this has prompted the investment plans for a new plant. Construction is due to start by the end of the year with the plant operational within 12 months.
And, the company predicts that with a South East England facility, it will have capacity to process around 40% of the fridges collected in the UK.
AO is also calling for retailer take-back of fridges and other white goods to be “the norm”.
Last year (2017) AO, which has an associated company AO Recycling, opened its first state-of-the-art fridge recycling plant in Telford which was officially launched by recycling minister Therese Coffey earlier this year.
In a statement today (17 July), AO said the project comes as “part of bold moves to support Defra and the UK in increasing collections of waste fridges to achieve the national WEEE collection target.”
And, the company has revealed that its Telford plant has reached capacity with long term contracted volume. The plant has already “made a significant impact on UK recycling capacity”, said AO, with 700,000 fridges expected to be recycled in its first full processing year – or about one fifth of the 3.5 million appliances thrown away annually.
Steve Caunce, AO chief executive, said: “We pride ourselves on doing the right thing and this announcement today really highlights that. We know that investing in another plant will mean we will be in a unique position to be able to give our customers the confidence that their fridges are always dealt with safely, efficiently and responsibly.
“As an online retailer, we have the opportunity to be able to ‘take back’ old machines when we deliver a new appliance.”Steve Caunce
Chief executive, AO
“As an online retailer, we have the opportunity to be able to ‘take back’ old machines when we deliver a new appliance. It makes sense from a logistics point of view and from an environmental perspective. It will really help to close the loop.”
The build of AO’s second facility will be overseen by Robert Sant, AO Recycling’s managing director, to the same environmental standards as the Telford operation which has at its heart a 40-tonne shredding machine.
AO’s Telford recycling operation created 200 jobs and was the first move by the retailer into waste management. It also operates a refurbishment scheme at Telford with fridges and some other white goods made available for reuse.
AO Recycling director Anthony Sant says the two facilities will form the centrepiece of AO’s strategy to take back more of all its customers’ unwanted appliances by 2019. The national WEEE collection target by 2019 is 65% of WEEE placed on the market for the preceding three years.
He said: “We are now trying to build a consensus among retailers, manufacturers, recyclers and policy makers for a WEEE recycling system based on the principle of retailer take-back for large items. The UK has a bold target for collection of WEEE by 2019. To achieve this target progress has to be made industry wide and will only be possible with changes to the way WEEE collections are funded and the creation of a robust logistics network to support widespread home collections.
“We want retailer take-back to become the norm – starting with AO customers who will come to understand that using the retailer to take away their old appliance is better for the environment than allowing these appliances to be left for unregulated collection and disposal methods, which see pollutants being allowed to escape to the atmosphere.”
“If government support AO in its push to increase responsible WEEE collections we will need the additional recycling capacity provided by a second site to deal with the extra items.”
And, Mr Sant emphasised that for this approach to work there needs to be support across the WEEE sector as well as producers. He reasoned: “For it to work all those involved in the manufacture, sale and disposal of electrical appliances will need to get on board. And we are making a start by setting ourselves a clear, visible and realistic target. But others will need to play their part – we need to put aside competition in order to work towards a common goal.”