By Geeta Chandra . 13 July 2021

Are WEEE throwing it all away?

Recent research conducted by environmental consultancy, Giraffe Innovation, has shown that the UK is losing up to £13.6 million of crucial raw materials every year due to the lack of sophisticated processes required to harvest them from waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

Materials such as gold, silver, platinum and palladium are found in electrical equipment such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and smart TVs and while WEEE recycling companies are said to receive nearly £150 million of precious materials contained in such devices, much of the actual recovery occurs outside of the UK due to lack of government investment in infrastructure.

Executive Director of Material Focus, Scott Butler said: “If the UK recycled more lost waste electricals and invested in new waste electricals processing infrastructure, we could capture more of these valuable materials.”

According to Material Focus, who commissioned the research, up to 300,000 tonnes of WEEE containing up to 379,000kg of precious metals such as gold, silver and palladium is thrown away by British households each year. With global demand for precious raw materials set to double between 2010 and 2030, it is imperative that the UK invests in the infrastructure that will be required to cope with the resultant rise in WEEE recycling. In addition to the lack of WEEE recycling by households, the UK is losing vast quantities of precious metals through the mass export of WEEE for processing in countries with advanced material recovery technology such as Canada, South Africa and Romania.

Currently, less than 1% of rare elements found in WEEE are actually being recycled in the UK as 99% is lost in the dust generated by the breakdown and processing procedures used in recycling. This equates to the loss of at least £14 million of these critical raw materials per year.

The UK is one of the largest producers of WEEE per capita in the world, with items such as phones and computer equipment accounting for much of the electronic waste. The shortage of sophisticated material recovery means that significant quantities of platinum, tin, vanadium and other precious metals are simply lost every year. These metals are crucial components of many environmentally friendly technologies, such as photovoltaics, electric vehicles and wind turbines, all of which are necessary in the fight against climate change. 

More effective WEEE recycling would not only support the reuse of such precious materials, but would also reduce the CO2 impact of the virgin material mining process.  Improving the UK’s WEEE recycling rates and process is a key element of reducing waste, cutting CO2 emissions and reusing these valuable metals.

Are you ready to grow your WEEE recycling business?

If you are ready to take your WEEE recycling business to the next level, ensuring your software can cope is an important first step. And, if you’re still using paper-based methods, it’s time to consider digitising your business. Find out how Waste Logics can help you to manage your contracts, drivers, customers and more, ensuring you maintain compliance and keep your permits and licenses up to date. Why not take a look and see how Waste Logics can help to simplify your business tasks and help keep your customers happy, so you can spend time growing your business. Click here for a demo, or for a quote please complete this form. 

Related articles:  WEEE Recycling – Why the sudden upsurge in demand?

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Topics: Recycling

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