National retail giant Argos has today (July 27) announced the launch of a major over-the-counter waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) take-back scheme operating in each of its 788 stores across the UK.
The scheme allows shoppers to trade in an unwanted small electrical item such as an MP3 player or mobile phone by taking the old device to the till where a customer advisor will check the re-useable value of the item.
If happy with the value offered in exchange for the item, the customer receives an Argos gift voucher which they can spend on any product in-store.
When collected at the counter the gadgets are checked against a lost and stolen database, placed in a sealed envelope with the relevant paperwork, and then sent to an IT Asset Management (ITAM) company where the data is wiped and the gadget is assessed to see if it can be refurbished for reuse.
If it cannot be refurbished or repaired then it is broken down so that the parts can be recycled. The refurbished gadgets will be re-sold by the asset management firm in the UK and throughout Europe.
Amy Whidburn, head of corporate responsibility at Argos, said: “As a leading technology retailer we know that our customers are looking for solutions to responsibly dispose of unwanted gadgets when they replace or trade-up devices. By working with WRAP, we’ve been able to find the most effective path for our business to offer this and achieve wide-scale company buy-in to the business model. A model that has scalability, commercial potential and credibility, which all adds critical value to our brand.
“Depending on the response from customers, we may extend the scheme to include other electrical items in the future, such as camera, sat-navs or laptops.”
Argos has been supported in developing the take-back scheme by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which through the EU Life+ funded REBus project is seeking to help companies implement resource efficient business models to keep products in use for longer
Research carried out by WRAP suggests that UK householders have around £1 billion worth of WEEE in their homes that is no longer used, and two-thirds of householders surveyed by the resource efficiency body said they would be willing to trade in their tech products with reputable retailers.
Marcus Gover, director at WRAP, said: “It’s fantastic to see this kind of service become available over Argos store counters. Resource efficient business models mean we can get the most out of a product economically and environmentally whilst offering real opportunities for business growth. We hope that Argos’s success will pave the way for change and give others confidence to embrace the circular economy.”
As distributors of electronic and electrical equipment retailers have an obligation to ensure that they are responsible for the recycling of a proportionate amount of WEEE that they help to reach the marketplace. Argos meets its obligations by buying recycling evidence through the Veolia-run compliance scheme.
Large retailers are also required to offer take-back in store, or to sign up to the government-supported Distributor Take Back Scheme (DTS), under WEEE laws which came into effect from January 2014. Retailer funding from the DTS goes to support local authority household waste recycling centres to improve WEEE waste collection facilities at these sites.