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How to Make Big Money Recycling Old Appliances

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday December 20th, 2011 | 1 Comment

There is money to be made by recycling household appliances and electrical equipment, according to a recent report by the British organization, Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP). The report found that almost a quarter of the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) disposed of at Household Waste Recycling Centers (HWRCs) each year by British households could be recycled, generating over $342 million. Researchers interviewed over 590 residents who used five participating HWRCs to dispose of WEEE in March 2011, and conducted 114 telephone interviews with residents who had booked a bulky waste collection for their WEEE.

The report, released at the Resource Security conference hosted by the Green Alliance and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), also found that the estimated resale value of bulky collected WEEE is around $120 million. The estimated 89,000 tons of WEEE disposed of in residual waste at HWRCs has a potential resale value of $43 million, and the estimated 160,000 tons of WEEE disposed of through residual household waste collections has a potential resale value of up to $87 million.

The minerals that some of the WEEE contains are also worth money. Dr. Liz Goodwin, chief executive of WRAP, said at the conference that by the organization’s estimates, 12 millions tons of WEEE will be disposed in the U.K. between now and 2020. “A quarter of this will comprise IT equipment, consumer electronics and display devices, which in turn, will contain around 63 tons of palladium, and 17 tons of iridium,” Goodwin said. That amount of palladium and iridium, according to today’s value, would be worth $1.5 billion and $592 million respectively, Goodwin added.

“This research has demonstrated the crucial importance of promoting reuse of WEEE,” the report states. “The value of the discarded products and materials is estimated to run into millions of pounds each year, and whilst the accuracy of these estimates is difficult to assess with any degree of certainty, they are reliable as ‘order of magnitude’ estimates.”

Lucy Keal, WRAP’s project manager for products and materials, said in a press release that 23 percent of all the WEEE collected at HWRCs “could have been either sold on straight away, or resold after repair and refurbishment.” She added that the resale values vary depending on the type of WEEE with large domestic appliances like washing machines making up 61 percent of the resale value from the bulky waste collections. “Fridges and freezers offer particularly good reuse potential if they’re still working.”

Photo credit: Flickr user, markhillary


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  • http://www.element14.com/legislation Victoria Jones

    Whilst I wholeheartedly encourage any increase in recycling of WEEE, I think it is very important that the correct processes/infrastructures are invested in to deal with the influx. A huge percentage of WEEE currently ends up in landfill or illegally exported to developing countries to have valuable components stripped out by burning over open fires or dipping in acid-baths. There may well be financial benefits in recycling more WEEE but these need to be balanced against the potential environmental/human impact.