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  • LARAC 2019 Event Blog

    24th Jul 2019

    REPIC welcomes LARAC Scholars to debate new ways to engage public on WEEE Recycling initiatives

    By Alyce Morris


    Last month, we invited the 2018 cohort of LARAC scholars for a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Mercury Recycling Ltd facility, followed by a roundtable discussion, exploring how local campaigns can influence behaviour change and increase the collection of small WEEE and batteries.

    Scholars came from far and wide to attend the event - with one travelling all the way from North Norfolk! Will Date, news editor of Lets Recycle, also joined us to chair the roundtable talk in the afternoon.

    The tour of the Mercury battery and lamp recycling plant at Trafford Park was led by Technical Director, James Avison, with the scholars seeing first-hand the different types of batteries and lamps recycling processes. It was amazing to see how even the smallest fragments of scrap are hand-picked and dismantled for reuse.

    Next, the scholars headed over to nearby Media City for the roundtable talk. Will Date opened up the discussion by highlighting some of the current challenges the WEEE recycling industry is facing - most notably the ongoing struggle to meet WEEE targets.

    REPIC CEO, Mark Burrows-Smith, covered some of the factors which could explain the missed targets - from unreported flows, to illegal activity and online platforms facilitating resale - such as Facebook, Marketplace, Gumtree and eBay etc. The first step to solving this issue?  Mark, commented: “We need to understand where the WEEE or EEE is going. If it’s in the household then is it worth ‘forcing’ it out, perversely creating waste by chasing hoarded EEE, in order to achieve a certain level of recycling? “

    The scholars went on to discuss how local councils and producers could collaborate to encourage householders to recycle more small and mixed WEEE. Lee Marshall, CEO of LARAC, commented: “One option is ‘incentivised funding’ whereby Local Authorities are given funding in blocks, broken down into ‘base funding’ and ‘reward funding’.” Lee explained that the board managing the WEEE Fund is currently exploring a number of options, like this, in order to find new ways to increase the collection of small WEEE from UK householders.

    The debate also explored other local campaign ideas, such as kerbside collection and black bag inspections. The scholars shared some of their experiences with these types of schemes and raised some of the challenges they encountered - such as lack of participation and scepticism from householders, as well as the high level of budget required to supply new vehicles that are suitably equipped for separated small WEEE collection.

    The scholars shared positive examples of local campaigns launched in their communities that had worked to successfully drive behavioural change and engagement. Demystifying the recycling process seemed to be a key factor, with householders inspired by seeing ‘behind the scenes’ and uncovering the journey their WEEE takes through the recycling process. Social media was identified as one of the most effective channels of communication, showing how the next generation of thought leaders are reaching their audience in new ways.

    At the end of the day, it’s clear there is no easy solution and perhaps no single answer to the challenge of accessing missing WEEE in the system. However, closer collaboration between LAs and producers is a great start. As Mark raised at the beginning of the roundtable, the truth is that we need to better understand where the WEEE is and why it isn’t coming through reported channels.

    All in all, it was a great day with lots of food for thought, and the scholars went back to their LAs armed with new knowledge and fresh ideas!

    With the new cohort of 2019 scholars due to be announced in October, planning for next year’s sponsorship event programme is already in progress - watch this space!   

    LARAC Mercury Visit

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