EXCLUSIVE: Viridor has confirmed it is to close its waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) reprocessing facility in St Helens, Merseyside.
The loss of the plant, which has a WEELABEX accreditation, has been described by some as a “devastating blow” to the fridge reprocessing industry.
A Viridor spokesperson told letsrecycle.com: “Viridor has confirmed it is planning to close its WEEE recycling plant at St Helens.
“Any staff impacted by this decision have been informed and the required consultation has begun.
“Viridor continues to operate the WEEE recycling plant in Perth and has the ability to increase capacity if required.”
The St Helens facility houses two lines in the same building – one to recycle small WEEE and one to handle fridges.
The small domestic appliance plant is capable of processing up to 50,000 tonnes every year, while its fridge processing plant can process 600,000 units per annum.
Viridor opened the £9 million facility on Merseyside in March 2010 (see letsrecycle.com story).
Developed by German technology company MeWa, the facility was designed to accept cooling and display equipment, small and large domestic appliances and small mixed WEEE.
In April an investigation was launched into the cause of a large fire at the facility (see letsrecycle.com story).
The St Helens approved authorised treatment facility (AATF) was the first in the UK to receive WEEELABEX accreditation for its cooling process, Viridor claims.
It remains one of only two plants with the accreditation in England, Scotland and Wales. The other is run by AO Recycling in Telford (see letsrecycle.com story).
WEEELABEX standards are Europe-wide requirements relating to the collection and disposal of WEEE.
The facility retained the accreditation in November 2018 following a re-assessment (see letsrecycle.com story).
Robert Sant is managing director of AO Recycling, one arm of online retail giant AO.com. He told letsrecycle.com the loss of a WEEELABEX-accredited reprocessing facility was a massive loss to the fridge reprocessing industry.
“The loss of a quality processor is not good news for the industry”
“This is a devastating blow to standards within the fridge processing market. Of course the loss of one of the country’s two accredited plants is going to have an effect,” Mr Sant said.
He added: “Without doubt, the loss of a quality processor is not good news for the industry.”
In October 2019, consultancy firm Anthesis published a report looking at treatment standards at fridge reprocessing facilities in England and Wales (see letsrecycle.com story).
The report found that in 2018, 204,000 tons of household appliances containing refrigerants were sold in the UK, the majority of which were domestic refrigerators. In the same period, 132,000 tons of appliances were collected for recycling.
Anthesis estimates that 2.5 million fridges were processed by UK fridge recycling plants in 2018.
Viridor’s St Helens facility had a 15% market share of the fridges processed that year, Anthesis says.