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Promising early results in Glasgow “WEEE” collection and recycling trial

The Logistics Research Centre at Heriot-Watt University has been working with the Scottish Institute for Remanufacturing, Menzies Distribution Ltd and CCL (North) Ltd on a 3 month household waste electrical collection and recycling trial.

Between November 2017 and January 2018, residents in Milngavie, Bearsden, Drumchapel, Giffnock and Clarkston were encouraged to drop off their unwanted small Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (also known as WEEE) at one of 12 local newsagents who acted as collection points for the trial. Whilst they normally delivery newspapers and magazines to shops across Scotland, project partner, Menzies Distribution, volunteered the use of their logistics network and trucks, to collect the WEEE from the local newsagents so that they can be passed on to Irvine based CCL (North) for remanufacturing, reuse or recycling activities.

The project helped to make waste electrical recycling more accessible and convenient for residents through the use of local newsagents, whilst supporting local authority efforts to deal with the vast quantities of electronic waste which are thrown away by residents in wheelie bins and end up in landfill.

In Scotland alone, over 135,500 tonnes of WEEE is generated each year. The reuse and recycling return rates for small electrical items such as mobile phones, computers, game consoles and kitchen appliances, are much lower than larger WEEE items like fridges, washing machines and televisions. Exploring alternative ways to prevent small WEEE going to landfill is important because they can contain hazardous materials like heavy metals which pollute the environment.

With the collection phase of the pilot recently coming to an end, Umit Bititci, Professor of Business Performance at Heriot-Watt said:

“We want to thank everyone in the local area who took part and helped us with our WEEE collection pilot project.  We are still carrying out data analysis but the early results are very promising. During the 3 month trial, local residents responded to our Facebook campaign and leaflets to drop off nearly 500kg of unwanted WEEE at our participating newsagents. We were able to recover 10% for reuse, stripped 44% for spare parts and the rest has been recycled for base materials.

As well as preventing hazardous WEEE material going to landfill, we expect the pilot to have created other environmental and societal benefits. In our analysis we will establish the reduction in transport carbon emissions as a result of using Menzies’ logistics network and understand how our use of local businesses has benefited the local community.

Ultimately, the pilot project will help us to advance research and gain insights into the practical challenges in developing remanufacturing and reverse logistics capabilities in Scotland.”

Jim Ross, leading the project for Menzies Distribution, said: “Our business has been working on sustainability initiatives and in partnership with Heriot Watt for a number of years; given the reach of our network into local communities across Scotland, taking part in this trial was a natural next step. We’re excited by the potential it has to improve recycling rates, especially since there is no associated increase in emissions – our vans already visit the stores every day delivering newspapers and magazines.”

Alison Gallacher from CCL (North) said: “We are committed to increasing the reuse and recycling of WEEE. Our aim is to encourage people to recycle more of their small household WEEE and stop them storing it or binning it. By partnering on this project, we are providing a local, convenient recycling option for householders to encourage them to recycle more of their small WEEE.

We have excellent reuse and recycling capabilities here in Scotland and we need to promote and raise people’s awareness of their existence.”

You can read more about the project here