Category Archives: WEEE

Resource Management Association Scotland (RMAS) Site visit to Optimum Eco Group – Restructa Ltd. and CCL (North) Ltd.

Resource Management Association Scotland (RMAS) Site visit to Optimum Eco Group – Restructa Ltd. and CCL (North) Ltd.

We had the pleasure of taking part in the RMAS site visit to Optimum Eco Group, sites Restructa Ltd. and CCL (North) Ltd, both in Irvine.

After a brief catch up over tea/ coffee and pastries, we were spilt into groups and taken by bus to the first site, CCL (North) Ltd. Established in 2000, CCL is one of the UK’s leading specialists for secure data destruction, IT asset disposal and WEEE recycling. Here we were shown around the plant and the process from the items arriving, to them being stripped down and recovered or fixed and reused. There is a museum section where some of the rarer finds are kept and displayed and I was delighted to see a ZX Spectrum computer on show, which took me back to my own childhood memories of my first ever console.

The ’hands-on’ approach with the waste demonstrates incredible attention to detail and ensures every part that could be recovered or reused is able to be utilised elsewhere. I found the vape dismantling particularly interesting as I am seeing more and more discarded vapes everywhere I go. These were stripped down, batteries removed, and plastic sleeves separated to try and make use of as many parts of the vape as possible. This was done by hand and under a fume cupboard.

The handling of IT equipment and other data sensitive equipment was very well thought through to maintain sensitivity and security throughout for the client. We were able to see the process of shredding, and the vast difference from the assets that went into the shredder compared to what came out at the other side.

We were then taken to Restructa which was formed in 2005 in response to the UK Government’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive.

It focuses on the repair, reuse and recycling of display equipment from its 25,000sq ft facility, handling more than 1000 TVs every day. Restructa. has developed into a leading recycling and waste management provider.

The televisions and monitors arrive and are checked to see what is wrong with them to segregate those repairable from those requiring recycling. We learned that out of 650,00 televisions sent for recycle each year, 37,000 tv’s are repaired and go on to have an extended life by around 5 to 6 years and are used by those who need them most.

At both sites we saw their modern apprentices hard at work and learning new skill sets. It was very reassuring to hear that approximately 70% of apprentices go on to progress within the company.

One fascinating thing about our visit was being shown what happens to the old TV screens, the glass is processed on site and made into garden decorative pebbles and chips, that has an opaque quality and let’s light shine through meaning the old TV screens become part of garden décor, water features and I was given some myself which I look forward to adding to my plant pot.

The other incredible piece of technology we were shown was the POPs (Persistent organic pollutants) testing system that Optimum Eco Group have developed, which tells you if a television backing can be recycled or not, thus increasing recyclable material. The manufacturing industry has no current responsibility to tell us what chemicals are in the items they produce, meaning they are less likely to consider the cradle to grave concept and how easy their product is to be recycled at end-of-life and this responsibility now falls to the waste industry to deal with.  

Our visit gave me lots of food for thought and great chat over lunch and it was so nice to see an organisation, not only doing what they should, but going above and beyond showing best practice and actively looking for the next best thing. How great it would be if everyone thought so carefully about their impact on the environment and what they can do better. RMAS does a great job of encouraging knowledge sharing, networking and engagement as well as encouraging innovation.

RMAS is a not-for-profit, non-political membership organisation for micro, small and medium sized resource management companies operating in Scotland. They actively represent and support companies who are operating across the length and breadth of Scotland. RMAS ensure members are well informed and that priority issues, risks, and opportunities are communicated, and represented effectively to Government, its various agencies, the commercial sector and the public.

I am grateful to RMAS and Optimum Eco Group for arranging the day and provoking the conversation that followed as a result. A truly informative site visit and lunch.

Disposable Vapes – A health hazard in more ways than one!

The popularity of disposable vapes / e-cigarettes in the UK has risen significantly over the past few years, with approximately 168 million disposable vapes purchased each year in the UK. The new phenomenon is alarmingly dangerous for both public health and environmental damage. Disposable vapes contain plastic, stainless steel, aluminium and a lithium battery and are categorised as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), meaning they should be recycled at Household Waste Recycling Centres, or returned to shops they are bought from. Unfortunately, around 1.3 million disposable vapes are thrown way each week, ending up either on the streets or if disposed, in landfill or incinerated. The lithium battery contained within these products is a precious, and finite, resource, which we need to be recovering and recycling. There is an additional risk of fire when disposable vapes are placed in the residual or household recycling, as lithium-ion batteries can explode if damaged while being processed. Not only is the use and subsequent incorrect disposal of these products wasting valuable resource, but it is also causing an increased risk of fires in the waste and recycling sector. This causes further damage to the environment and increased risk of injury for workers at waste and recycling facilities. So, what is the solution?

Recent headlines have discussed some retailers banning the sale of disposable vapes, due to concerns of their impact on public and environmental health. There may be good intentions behind this, however disposable vapes will still be readily available for purchase from many retailers.

So where does producer responsibility come into force to tackle the ongoing waste issues these products are causing?

Is it acceptable to use finite resources in millions of disposable products?

Should governments look to ban these disposable products or could more be done to apply extended producer responsibility to these products, so that producers of these products are held responsible for the correct and safe disposal of them, and the public have a financial incentive to return used products.

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/3113), aim to encourage the reuse and recycling of these items by placing financial responsibilities on producers and distributors of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) to pay for collection and disposal schemes for WEEE, but with so many disposable vapes ending up on the streets or in landfill, more action is definitely required.

A-Z of Waste Management W – WEEE

What is WEEE?

WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) is said to be the fastest growing waste stream in the UK. It is a classification used for products that need batteries or have a plug, such as household appliances (fridges, toasters), IT gear (computes, phones), consumer equipment (TVs, radios), lighting and monitoring equipment (lightbulbs, smoke detectors), electrical tools, toys, and medical devices.

Why is it importance to properly manage and dispose of WEEE?

WEEE features a complex mix of product types and materials, some of which can be hazardous. Therefore, WEEE presents a number of potential risks and problems:

  • The environment: most electronic devices contain toxic materials (such as mercury or lead) and improper disposal allows harmful pollutants to leak into and bio-accumulate in nature
  • Human health: if WEEE disposal does cause environmental pollution, then bioaccumulated toxins may be consumed by people, having negative health consequences
  • The climate emergency: WEEE can produce methane emissions (a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide), contributing to climate change
  • Resource scarcity: many of the minerals used in electronic devices are finite, meaning there is only so much of them available for use. By recycling electronics, we can ensure some of these materials are recovered, and re-used in new devices, so that we are less likely to run out of necessary metals in the future
  • The economy: almost a huge £12 billion worth of electronic waste is illegally dumped every year (which is 90% of all electronic waste!) according to The UN Environment Programme

How does this affect you?

UK households contain over £1 billion of unused or unwanted electrical equipment, according to a recent government report. Even householders have a duty to dispose of this waste properly, with their options being: take WEEE items to household waste recycling or civic amenity centres; contact their local authority for collection; or arrange for retailers to collect old items when they purchase a new replacement.

How does this affect businesses?

The most preferable option for handling waste is to prevent the waste arising in the first place, or to re-use items. However, when it comes to WEEE, consumers and businesses are somewhat limited in their ability to prevent waste arising or to re-use items. This is due to a major problem termed built-in obsolescence: manufactures intentionally shorten the lifespan of electrical products to sell more items to consumers. Until improved policies resolve this issue, WEEE recycling remains a focus.

WEEE recycling is a specialist sub-sector of the waste industry, and because of the implementation of the WEEE Directive, this sector is growing. The EU WEEE Directive 2012 regulates the management of electrical and electronic waste, and it is applied in the UK by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2013. These regulations help increase WEEE recycling by placing an extended responsibility on the producers of electronic and electrical items, ensuring that producers finance the collection, treatment, and recovery of WEEE.

Businesses and organisations that use electrical and electronic goods must ensure that separately collected WEEE is treated and recycled. Such organisations can benefit from the obligations of distributors (under the WEEE regulations) – they must offer a take-back system that disposes WEEE items for free. Distributors can offer a free in-store take-back scheme whereby WEEE items are accepted from customers purchasing equivalent new items, or they can offer a distributor take-back scheme in which consumers can dispose of WEEE for free at designated collection facilities.

How can Albion help?

Albion is an experienced training organisation that delivers a wide range of training for organisations across the UK. As such, we can provide training to those who produce, handle, and manage WEEE, to help them understand their obligations and ensure they comply with the relevant waste regulations on WEEE (and other forms of waste). In addition to this, we also provide sustainability training courses, for companies that are looking to lower their impact on the environment.

The results of such training can help ensure that businesses are compliant with waste regulations, and it can generate significant cost savings. To find out more about the help we can provide, please visit our website ( or contact Jane Bond

Albion’s ABC of Waste Management – P – Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP’s)

  • What are persistent organic pollutants (POP’s)?
  • How do the recent changes to the hazardous waste regulations impact you?
  • What are the implications of POP’s in waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)?
  • What does this mean for the re-use and recycling industry?

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP’s) are potentially hazardous organic substances which can impact the environment and human health if they escape. Chemical have historically been used in plastic for electrical items due to their flame-retardant properties.

Legal aspect

Many items of WEEE meet the criteria for hazardous waste under the Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005, most common are fluorescent light tubes and cathode ray tubes. Hazardous WEEE should be segregated from general WEEE for specialised collection and treatment.

The Hazardous Waste Regulations were amended 2019 to take into account the revised EU Regulation on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).  The new legislation sets tougher controls on chemicals historically used as flame retardants as well as other potentially hazardous substances. 

Research carried out by the Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling (ICER) suggested that levels of POPs present in common WEEE plastics are actually higher than previously thought. High bromine levels that could exceed the POPs Directive threshold can be present in the following electronic plastics:

  • Plastic from cathode ray tube (CRT) display units
  • Flat panel displays
  • Small mixed WEEE
  • Fridge compressors

Further to those, tests have been taking place to determine the presence of POPs in cabling.

Issue for the WEEE reuse and recycling industry

The new legislation sets maximum concentration levels for POPs in waste materials to levels that are below what have been commonly used in products in the past.  Many items, in particular Small Mixed WEEE, Cathode Ray Tube TVs and Flat Screen TVs, could contain levels of POPs that effectively render them hazardous.  Most of these items which previously could be reused or recycled must now be incinerated. 

Implications to the WEEE reuse and recycling industry

We are waiting for guidance from SEPA around this.

The legislation will result in a need for greater sorting and separation of what is now deemed potentially hazardous plastic derived from WEEE.

In practice, the new legislation means that some plastics from WEEE which would previously have been recycled, will now be destroyed by incineration (or potentially other high temperature processes like a cement kiln). Bromine separation technologies may be used to separate these POP containing plastics from other plastics and wastes. The latter may then be suitable for recycling.

It is anticipated that this could add significant cost to the treatment of waste electrical and electronic equipment, as hazardous waste materials are subject to greater regulatory controls than non-hazardous waste and due to more limited treatment options.

Recycling industry

Recyclers of WEEE have highlighted that plastics recycled from the WEEE stream such as computer cases had been in high demand, and they believe that concern about POPs is overstated and would prevent recycling.

Does it make sense to burn plastics which could have an alternative route?

The idea of plastic from the backs of television being seen as hazardous is also worrying exporters of refuse derived fuel. The RDF Industry Group concerns are that this would potentially mean that RDF containing these plastics should be classed as hazardous if the plastics were not covered by the exemption for household WEEE.

An additional concern pointed out by the industry was about the impact on recycling rates with the potential that some target rates may now not be achievable.

Reuse industry

There is still uncertainty on the impact of the POPs Legislation on the reuse industry.

The EA has stated that waste display devices and Small Mixed WEEE cannot cease to be a waste, or be reused, unless it is demonstrated that POPs are not present in a particular device or item of equipment. The reuse industry is expressing their concern as this could bring the reuse market for display and small items of WEEE to a close. 

In addition, it is not clear how this would impact on WEEE reuse at civic amenity sites and charity shops. Although the reuse industry did point out that the risk of spreading POPs is low as it is ‘encapsulated in the plastic’, and can only be released upon waste treatment. This means that reuse of items that may contain POPs would not create any risk of harm as the integrity of the plastic is not compromised during testing and repair.

How can Albion help?

This will impact businesses including;

  • Metal recyclers,
  • Recyclers of IT equipment and others accepting WEEE with POPs
  • Local authorities which handle WEEE at recycling centres

Albion can help to assess the implications of this legislation through;

  • Review your activities on the handling of WEEE, licences and/ or permits and cross check against the POPs legislation
  • Identify areas of non-compliance
  • Review your data and estimate potential impact on recycling rates (in case of LAs)
  • Estimate potential impact on costs based on required method of disposal to meet regulations
  • Identify options for management and classification of materials.

WEEE Regulations 2013: government guidance notes – BIS


This document explains the requirements of the draft Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2013.

It is intended for businesses, public and third sector organisations and individuals involved in the sale, purchase and disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) from 1 January 2014.  It explains the requirements on business, how to comply with the law and provides sources of further information.

Please find the document attached.

Source: UK Government. Department for Business, Innovation & Skills