Kerbside Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) collections are expanding across London as local authorities in Bromley and Waltham Forest begin new waste collection contracts.
The new kerbside services are intended to unlock the value of unused electrical items in homes across the country – last month the Royal Society of Chemistry announced that over half of UK households have at least one unused electrical item which could be recycled. (see letsrecycle.com story)
Residents in Bromley have been able to recycle WEEE on their doorsteps since Veolia invested £6 million in new vehicles in the southern London borough. These were brought into service this September. (see letsrecycle.com story)
Since then, the council says more than 560kg of small electrical items have been recycled, alongside batteries and textiles which are collected in the same storage space on the vehicle.
Councillor William Huntington-Thresher, executive councillor for environment at Bromley, said: “We are determined to keep advocating a strong recycling message, with all the financial and environmental benefits this brings.
“Whilst we don’t expect a major uplift in terms of tonnage, these new recycling services send a powerful message to residents, including to those who may have been tempted to simply dispose of these items in their non-recyclable refuse collection and quite possibly reduces ‘trips to the tip’.”
In Waltham Forest, Urbaser will also be allowing households to recycle WEEE at the kerbside from spring 2020.
Though the waste management company began its contract with the north east London borough this month, the collection of electrical items will begin in spring 2020. As in Bromley, the collection of small WEEE will happen alongside the kerbside collection of batteries and textiles.
Urbaser plan to introduce new collection vehicles and work over a longer day to make the service more efficient and facilitate the broader collections.
Javier Peiro, managing director of Urbaser, said: “We have been working with the London Borough of Waltham Forest since 2013 carrying out street cleansing and grounds maintenance, and we look forward to using our expertise in waste and recycling collections to enhance the current service.
“We are particularly excited to be able to increase the range of materials collected for recycling from the kerbside, as well as reuse and recycle more items from the large item collection service.”
Collecting WEEE at the kerbside requires specific infrastructure and will usually mean changes need to be made to collection vehicles.
In Bromley new Dennis Eagle vehicles have been introduced, equipped with storage cages which allow the batteries and small WEEE to be collected, as well as other materials like textiles. It is expected similar vehicles will be used in Waltham Forest.
“[lightbulb recycling] might best be achieved through mandatory takeback at shops that sell new lightbulbs, supplemented (or possibly subsidised) by online retail platforms”
Other councils in London offering kerbside WEEE collections include Hounslow and local authorities that are part of the North London Waste Authority.
Nigel Harvey – chief executive of the Recolight compliance scheme – said that kerbside collections have the potential to increase takeback of small WEEE as long as they are linked with “a well-funded consumer awareness campaign”.
However Mr Harvey also warned that kerbside collections alone would not be enough to tackle all household WEEE, especially as it was unsuitable for collecting low energy lightbulbs.
He explained: “These are fragile and contain mercury, and are best returned to collection points. So to increase the collection rate of such products, we need more collection points.
“That might best be achieved through mandatory takeback at shops that sell new lightbulbs, supplemented (or possibly subsidised) by online retail platforms.”
The collections in London follow the announcement of new funding for local authority WEEE collections from the WEEE Fund. (see letsrecycle.com story)
Up to £3 million has been allocated from 2020 to the end of 2022. Applications for this funding close on 25 October.
The fund is open to any UK waste collection authority prepared to roll-out or expand kerbside collection for small electricals.