The British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA), the trade association representing the metals recycling industry, has highlighted the risk of placing Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) in household waste wheelie bins or recycling boxes.
Whilst the majority of the country is staying at home in line with current Government COVID-19 guidance, workers in the waste sector will be working tirelessly to keep the streets clean and free from rubbish, vermin and related disease. They help ensure that general waste is safely disposed of and our home recyclables (tin cans, drinks cans, plastic packaging, paper etc) get back into the circular economy.
If, as householders, we dispose of waste electrical appliances in our general waste or home recycling box/bin, we risk exposing these workers to fire, explosion or electrocution. This is because household waste collections are not designed to handle electrical items, many of which may contain a lithium ion battery (even some items that have a plug such as DVD players, games consoles etc) that, when tampered with or crushed (for example by a rubbish truck’s compactor), can explode and/or cause a fire.
WEEE that ends up in the household waste collection and recycling centres (HWRC) can be extremely dangerous: many of the recent fires at waste sites can be attributed to WEEE, and specifically the presence of lithium ion batteries. In addition, harmful substances can leak out and cause soil and water pollution; harming wildlife and potentially human health.
James Kelly, CEO of the BMRA said: “WEEE or e-waste is one of the fastest growing ‘waste’ streams in the UK and requires specialist handling and treatment. When not dealt with correctly it poses a risk not only to the environment, but for the workers that handle it. Let’s not cause any additional risk to these workers at this already trying time.
“Ensuring that WEEE is recycled responsibly means that more material enters the circular economy, can be recycled and as much as possible avoids landfill.”
WEEE can include:
• large household appliances, e.g. fridges, ovens, and washing machines.
• small household appliances, e.g. kettles, food processors, toasters, and radios.
• IT and telecommunications equipment, e.g. tablets, mobile/smart phones and computers
Mr Kelly added: “We are encouraging people to follow the Government advice and stay at home, and to urge them to keep hold of their WEEE until such time the current restrictions on movement are relaxed or removed. Once this happens, householders will be able, once again, to take their old electrical items to a local HWRC or a BMRA member that can handle this type of material.”
Find a metal recycler near you: www.recyclemetals.org/recyclerdirectory. Call ahead to check the type of material taken.
About the BMRA and metals recycling:
The British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) is the trade association representing the £7 billion UK Metal Recycling sector. The BMRA represents over 270 organisations that trade and process over 10 million tonnes of ferrous and non-ferrous metals every year, including: steel, aluminium and copper.
It is made up of businesses of all sizes, including small family owned businesses and large international companies. Member activities include collecting, sorting, shearing, baling, shredding, media separation, as well as reuse, casting, and fabrication.
Members recycle a wide range of products, such as end-of-life vehicles, packaging, batteries, domestic appliances, building materials and electronic goods.
1. The UK metal recycling industry is so efficient at recovering metal from end-of-life products that more is recovered than can be consumed domestically. As a result, over 80 per cent of all ‘waste’ metal is now destined for export. This means we are competing against suppliers from the USA and Japan who are not required to characterise recycled metal as waste.
2. Every tonne of recycled steel saves: 1.5 tonnes of iron ore, 0.5 tonnes of coal, 70% of the energy, 40% of the water, 75% of CO2 emissions, and 0.97 tonnes of CO2.
3. Recycling of metals is also the major contributor to the UK’s achievement of targets under EU Directives such as end-of-life vehicles and packaging.
4. In 2017, the UK exported over 9 million tonnes of recovered ferrous (iron and steel) metal and approximately 800,000 thousand tonnes of non-ferrous metal (such as aluminium and copper).
Members of the public can use the BMRA website to find a metal recycler – www.recyclemetals.org/recyclerdirectory