New research identifies the cost of extending kerbside recycling of electricals to all UK households

Research commissioned by Material Focus has identified that if kerbside collections were to be introduced across the UK, this could provide the capacity to collect 99,000 tonnes of waste electricals.

Media release, 8 July 2021

Research commissioned by Material Focus has identified that if kerbside collections were to be introduced across the UK, this could provide the capacity to collect 99,000 tonnes of waste electricals. This would equate to 64% of the 155,000 tonnes of small electricals that are currently thrown away.  Modelling estimates predict that up to £21.2 million would be required to set up kerbside collection of waste electricals for all UK households that currently don’t have this service.   A further £9.9 million per annum operating costs would be required to run the recycling service.

According to Material Focus research, currently UK householders are throwing away 155,000 tonnes of waste electricals each year with a further 527 million items hoarded in UK homes. This is contributing to one of the fastest growing waste streams in the UK and globally, estimated to cost the UK economy over £370 million of lost valuable raw materials, such as gold, copper, aluminium and steel.  Kerbside recycling is being considered as one of the methods to increase recycling of electricals by making it easier for the public to recycle the smaller electricals that too often end up being binned. 

The research was conducted by Oakdene Hollins in partnership with SUEZ, who carried out two online surveys amongst local authorities and waste contractors across the UK.  The  surveys assessed the various different methods of collecting waste electricals in existing kerbside areas, the costs of operating these services, and tonnage of electricals collected.  66 responses were received from a mix of local authorities and waste partnerships, representing 80 local authorities overall.  Of these, 46 currently operate a kerbside collection service for small electricals. 

The cost of scaling up existing kerbside collections of electricals were modelled to estimate UK wide setup and operating costs, forecast collection capacity and volumes, and CO2 emissions. Costs and capture rates of dedicated separate pass vehicles were also modelled, both to augment the existing collection models and as a standalone option. 

The findings from the research will feed into the upcoming consultation on the review of the UK’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment regulations, due to take place during 2021.  

Scott Butler, Executive Director, Material Focus said: “This research has highlighted that kerbside collections could have a key role to play in making it easier to recycle your electricals, alongside other initiatives.  The modelling in the research provides the first comprehensive review of what it could cost to collect small electricals directly from every UK household.” 

Vivian Shi, Senior Technical Consultant, Oakdene Hollins said: “The research identified that there are a variety of kerbside collection methods for small mixed WEEE, and in some cases batteries, that a small proportion of local authorities are using to successfully collect waste electricals  across the UK. We hope the findings of this study will be useful during the forthcoming industry consultation on the WEEE Regulations.”

Read the report A Review (Economic and Environmental) of Kerbside Collections for Waste Electricals  

Note to Editors

For further information please contact Kate Hinton; mobile 07714 708416.

Material Focus, is a not-for-profit organisation whose goal is to stop the nation throwing away or hoarding all their old small electricals. It has launched the new UK-wide Recycle Your Electricals campaign. The campaign is revealing the value hidden in electricals and is making it easier for us all to recycle and reuse the small electricals we no longer need by providing more recycling points as well as providing practical information on how households can recycle.

The campaign is funded by producers of electrical appliances which pays for a range of activities including communications, behaviour change activities, increasing  recycling collection points and options and technical research. Ultimately the aim is to support actions that will help the UK increase the levels of reuse and recycling of waste electricals.

Oakdene Hollins is a technical, science-led, circular economy consultancy that delivers creative, strategic and practical solutions to support clients to be environmental and sustainability leaders in their field.​

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