News release from 17/11/2021

Boost for electrical recycling

Boost for electrical recycling

Eight new points where residents can recycle small electrical items are set to be installed across Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire.

The Greater Cambridge Shared Waste logo

Greater Cambridge Shared Waste, a partnership between Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District Councils, has secured new funding for additional collection banks where residents can drop off small household electricals like kettles and toasters.

Cambridge already has some collection banks in new housing developments in Trumpington, but the extra funding will allow Greater Cambridge Shared Waste to provide more banks across the area, bringing e-recycling closer to more people’s homes. Work has begun to identify where these new collection banks will be.

Electrical items cannot be put into residents’ recycling bins, and with Cambridgeshire households throwing an average of 2.6kg of electrical items away in their black bins each year, this adds up to around 320 tonnes of e-waste which could have been recycled. According to Recycle Now, if electrical items end up in landfill, hazardous substances will leak out and cause soil and water contamination – harming wildlife and even human health.

The banks are suitable for collecting most small items which have a plug or a battery, including phones, toys, kettles and many more.

The £50,000 funding for the new recycling banks comes from retailers which do not offer their own take-back schemes for waste electricals, as a way of complying with the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations, through an organisation called Valpak.

The unwanted small appliances will be sorted for re-use and recycling by specialist company. Items that are undamaged, uncontaminated and repairable may be suitable for re-use within the UK. The refurbished small appliances can be comprehensively tested to ensure that they are safe and functional. Items that are unsuitable for re-use will get dismantled into component parts. Many of those components are also suitable for re-use. For example, screens from broken monitors or power units from laptops. Items that fail the re-use screening are sent to local and national specialist operators who will recycle those items into new substances or products.

The funding comes alongside Cambridge City Council approving a Motion at a Full Council meeting on 21 October confirming cross-party support for the importance of electric item recycling and the councils’ plans to provide WEEE banks.

Cambridge City Cllr Jamie Dalzell, who proposed the motion to council said: “Recycling e-waste is becoming more and more important as materials like lithium for components come under increasing demand. We all need to do our bit by ensuring our electricals don’t go in the bin and bringing more of these recycling banks closer to more people will really help with that.”

Cllr Rosy Moore, Executive Councillor for Climate Change, Environment and City Centre at Cambridge City Council said: “We’re excited to receive this funding which will help more people in South Cambridgeshire and Cambridge access facilities for recycling their unwanted small electrical items. Electrical items contain lots of valuable materials that can be separated for recycling and turned into new products. All this saves resources and energy so we need to make it as easy as possible for residents to recycle them.”

Cllr Brian Milnes standing in front of an electric bin lorry

Cllr Brian Milnes (pictured - left), Lead Cabinet Member for Environmental Services and Licensing at South Cambridgeshire District Council said: “I hope these collection banks will increase the amount of electrical items that we can save from landfill by re-using or recycling. We’re really lucky in Cambridgeshire that we also have a fantastic network of Repair Cafes run by community volunteers, that are helping to keep appliances going so they don’t become waste. I’d like to urge everyone to try to repair their gadgets before using the recycling banks.”

Don’t lose your spark – tips for electric dreams

  • Do you really need that smartphone upgrade or new gadget? Or could you keep your phone another year, use something you already have, borrow it or buy second-hand? A chocolate fondue fountain probably won’t get used frequently…
  • Look after your appliances and keep them clean so that they keep working for longer and don’t need replacing. For example, many vacuum cleaners taken to Recycling Centres simply need emptying!
  • If your unwanted device still works then sell it, donate it or pass it on. Mobile phone providers offer take-back schemes for recent models, many charity shops are now able to accept small clean electrical appliances (check first) and Facebook marketplace, Gumtree and similar make it easy to pass on or sell to local people.
  • If your item has stopped working, see if it can be repaired. Check YouTube to see if there’s anything you can do yourself (it might just need a new fuse!), take it to one of the many Repair Cafes around Cambridgeshire, or contact a local professional repairer.
  • If your electrical item is beyond repair, you can also drop it off at a Household Recycling Centre likes the ones at Thriplow or Milton.

Visit Cambridge Carbon Footprint’s ‘Circular Cambridge’ website where you can find a list of upcoming Repair Cafes as well as a directory of professional repairers.

Find your nearest local recycling points.