Positive procurement-based encouragement, rather than burdensome legislative enforcement, is the way forward to increase volumes of Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) recycling across Europe, suggests Axion Polymers.
The Salford-based plastics recycler believes UK and European Governments could learn lessons from their USA counterparts, whose EPEAT (Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool) measuring system is having a greater impact on recycling levels over there. A large number of branded OEMs have already signed up to this system of product assessment.
“EPEAT is more of a positive driver to encourage more WEEE recycling in the USA,” asserts Axion director Keith Freegard. “A ‘carrot rather than stick’ approach is what’s needed if we are to create the positive drivers that make products containing recycling content much more sustainable and attractive to potential purchasers. It’s a pulling-through approach to increasing recycling volumes that will optimise re-use and preservation of our valuable resources.”
A listing of the large number of equipment manufacturers who have signed up to the EPEAT scheme can be seen at http://www.epeat.net/Companies.aspx.
Calling for action, Keith says: “Axion would strongly encourage the UK Government to create and support a similar positive procurement policy for ALL government departments and right across the public sector. For example, imagine how much is spent on buying electronic equipment in the NHS, the MoD and local authorities and how this could impact recycling volumes?”
His comments came after speaking on Axion’s latest material recovery techniques at the 10th International Electronics Recycling Congress IERC 2011 (www.icm.ch). More than 450 experts from industry, authorities and academia attended the Salzburg event to share the latest information on the WEEE recycling business and the challenges it faces.
Echoing the viewpoints of several other key speakers, Keith highlighted the success of the EPEAT method, which uses various measures such as levels and sources of recycled plastic content, in determining a product’s sustainable credentials. Government procurement bodies are encouraged to purchase the highest-rated products, such as printers or computers. In turn, this incentivises manufacturers to incorporate more WEEE-derived content in new goods.
“OEM producers focus on how products are scored positively as those with a top ‘Gold’ award are most likely to get purchased by big organisations,” explains Keith. “It’s an example of a ‘carrot-type’ approach to encouraging more WEEE recycling, rather than what we tend to do in Europe - which is too much legislation that is often difficult to enforce.”
Arguing against introducing any further red tape that would create further recycling barriers, Keith concludes: “The levels of small domestic appliances being recycled across Europe are still quite low when compared with the estimated arisings. Maybe a lesson we could learn is to use positive purchase- based methods of encouraging markets, rather than always just setting legally-enforceable target levels that everyone must achieve.”
Axion, an award-winning Salford-based plastics recycler, has developed unique and novel sorting, separation and refining processes to convert a range of waste plastics, both from the WEEE sector and retail packaging waste, into very high grade polymers. Last year it became the first polymer producer in the UK and Europe to offer customers a product with the Carbon Trust’s Carbon Reduction Label - Axpoly® PS13 post-consumer recycled polystyrene derived from retail packaging waste.
Axion Polymers is part of the Axion Group that develops and operates innovative resource recovery and processing solutions for recycling waste materials. The Group works with a wide range of clients within the recycling and process industries on the practical development of new processing and collection methods.
For more information, contact Axion Polymers on 0161 737 6124 or visit the website - www.axionpolymers.com.