Three ways to get great WEEE recycling results

Promoting re-use in Germany

RecyclingBörse (also known as ‘AKR’), based in North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, collects and re-markets used products in its own second-hand shops across the region and also runs a certified WEEE recycling facility.

AKR is an independent and not-for-profit organisation, with a mission to promote re-use. It also has the capability to test and evaluate collected WEEE items according to technical and market criteria.

Within the CRM Recovery project, AKR trialled three collection methods:

 

Method 1 – Re-Use Olympics

Six secondary schools in the area of Herford participated in this trial. For each school, a collection day was agreed and advertised in advance.

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Figure 1 – Re-use Olympics process

 

At the end of the trial, representatives of these schools were invited to receive an award and hear Sven Grieger, of CRM Recovery partner EARN, outline the importance of recycling critical raw materials from WEEE.

All schools received a 50€ voucher for the second-hand warehouses of AKR in recognition of their participation in the project.

Three schools were also each awarded a 200€ cheque for the best outcome of collected re-usable items, the total collected WEEE, and the best performance per student.

 

Method 2 – ‘Re-Box’

The Re-Box was developed to collect re-usable items from households in a convenient manner and to minimise damage during storage and transportation. The collection was not limited to WEEE.

 

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Figure 2: Re-Box for households

In total, 33% of the boxes allocated were returned to AKR. 1% of these were used for WEEE only. The others contained WEEE and items such as books, toys and games.

 

Method 3 – ‘Re-Bag’

The Re-Bag is an established method for AKR to collect used clothes from households. In this trial, householders were also asked to include re-usable WEEE items. 100,000 bags were distributed.

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Figure 3: Re-Bag and example of collected contents

 

Over the course of 2.5 months approximately 4,000 bags were returned, of which around 200 contained small WEEE. Re-usable WEEE appliances accounted for 6.5%.

 

The trial in numbers

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* the overall ratios of collected items that were then re-used

  

Trial impacts and learnings

  • The secondary school pupils who took part in the Re-use Olympics are now much more aware of the importance of WEEE collection and re-use.
  • Re-Box is considered to be a good method of awareness-raising for recycling and re-use. It also provides an ideal opportunity to offer an additional option for returning small WEEE items. Public feedback was positive, although it should be noted that there may be a kind of “giveaway” impact, in that the (free) boxes may well be appreciated for other purposes.
  • Re-Bag is a good method of raising awareness due to the high distribution rate and relatively cheap production costs. The quantity collected is limited, but it is nonetheless a successful means of reducing the amount of small WEEE that ends up in household general waste bins.
  • A ‘Re-Envelope’ trial was initiated, whereby local retailers would have been involved in a postal WEEE collection. Customers would be supplied with envelopes in the shops in order to send smartphones directly to AKR. However, retailer interest was quite limited. It also transpired that ADR, implemented via the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations, combined with mail providers’ concerns, made it too complicated to send items with embedded Lithium Ion batteries.

 

Benefits

CRM Recovery project funding has helped to test and demonstrate a number of scalable methods of WEEE collection.

A grand total of 2,915kg of devices were collected via the three approaches. Around 142.5kg of these were considered as re-usable.

The six secondary schools that took part in the Re-use Olympics initiative collected a total of 112.9kg of re-usable devices. Had this initiative been tested within the 50 schools initially invited, this figure could have increased to 940.83kg. As a further (very basic) extrapolation, according to the German Federal Statistical Office there are around 7,793 similar schools across Germany (general secondary, grammar schools and Integrated Comprehensives). If every one of these schools took part in a Re-use Olympics, based on the trial, 146,638kg of re-usable devices could be collected.

 

View the PDF here:

CRM – RecyclingBorse Three ways to get great WEEE recycling results