Take Back and Incentivised Return Trials in Northern England

Retail and Charity Trials

A trial was led by Axion Recycling Ltd (Axion), based at Trafford Park, Manchester.   Axion are long established experts in the resource recovery sector. Using this expertise and sector knowledge, they developed and delivered WEEE collection trials across the North of England using both retail take- back and incentive return schemes.

Axion partnered with renowned and trusted brands – British Heart Foundation, Dixons Carphone and John Lewis – to target high value IT equipment and consumer electronics that are not generally disposed of via typical collection and recovery channels, often due to concerns around data security (e.g. laptops, PCs, tablets, cameras, games consoles and DVD / Blu-Ray players). Such items are also often ‘hoarded’ within the home, in drawers, cupboards, lofts and cellars.

A further reason to target these types of WEEE is the high-level of critical raw materials (CRMs) within the embedded printed circuit boards (PCBs) – an important aspect as the bulk of CRMs in WEEE are found in components mounted onto PCBs. For example, according to ITRI (2013) it is estimated that 265T of tin and 3T of gold (with a combined value of £50 million) is disposed of via waste PCBs annually in the UK alone, with additional platinum, palladium, silver, tantalum and rare earths.



Within the CRM Recovery project, the three organisations were involved in different types of collection scheme as summarised below:

Axion Trial pic 1


The Trial Results 

  • Overall, the trial schemes were a success with over 300 items collected.
  • 110 items were classed as being suitable for re-use, resulting in > £2,500 being raised through selling them on the BHF eBay site.
  • Partnering with such well known and trusted organisations, seems to help the public to overcome data security issues and encourages donations / returns.
  • The most common items collected were laptops (22%), mobile phones (55%), PCs (16%) and games consoles (5%). 13 tablets were donated to the trial (4% of total).
  • Very few smartphones were donated to the trial. A total of 55 phones were donated with only 9 (16%) of them being classed as smartphones. This this may be because there are well established incentivised recycling schemes already in place which are more appealing than donating a device or returning it to a store for recycling.
  • Staff changes can impact upon the rate of collection.
  • Regular visits by the trial partner to the stores helped to keep focus and increase collection rates.
  • It is helpful if a store has some form of ‘recycling champion’ in place.
  • Retail has a vast distribution network, so it can be difficult to track collected WEEE items through the system.

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  • CRM Recovery project funding has helped to test and demonstrate a number of repeatable, scalable processes of WEEE collection.
  • The schemes developed within this trial provide useful pointers to addressing concerns around data security and the knock-on effects on WEEE collection, re-use and CRM recovery.
  • Awareness of the issues and opportunities related to CRMs and WEEE have been raised within the general population and a number of renowned retail brands and a charitable organisation.

Download the PDF here:

CRM – Axion retail and charity trials case study