Recycling information

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is becoming a ubiquitous feature of the UK’s waste as a modern consumer society, with around 1.3 million tonnes of electrical goods thrown out every year, some 38 per cent of which is recycled. Material recovery of WEEE has progressed in recent years, with 75 per cent of WEEE arising in 2010 being re-used or having materials recovered successfully.

Large household appliances, such as fridges and washing machines, currently make up 40 per cent of WEEE, but it also includes TVs, small domestic appliances, electronic toys and other electrical goods.

WEEE recycling is tricky due to the diversity of materials that make up the products (some of which are hazardous, like mercury or cadmium) and the diversity of the products themselves. While recycling processes vary hugely due to these different materials, most involve separating an appliance’s individual components so that they can be taken away for onward processing.

The below process is a simplified version of the WEEE recycling process, given the diversity of processes used to recycle different electrical appliances.

You can learn more about how to recycle WEEE, such as electrical items and white goods, on the Wales Recycles website.

Waste electrical and electronic equipment icon

Recycling benefit

Amount recycled 14,862t
CO2 avoided 2,675t
Estimated disposal saving £1,679,427

Recycling process

  1. Collection: Waste WEEE is collected from designated WEEE drop off points and taken away for processing.

  2. Sorting: Hand sorting takes place to extract materials such as batteries and copper for quality control purposes before materials are shredded to reduce their size to approximately 100mm. This prepares material for the secondary process and ensures equipment with sensitive data, stored on hard drives for example, is destroyed.

  3. Shaking: Shredded material is dropped onto a shaking hopper to space it out so that it moves evenly onto the conveyor belt, before further secondary size reduction takes place and the materials are ready for sorting.

  4. Dust extraction and metal removal: Dust is extracted and taken away for environmental disposal. Iron and steel are then removed using electro-magnets and are collected and stored in large containers, ready for sale.

  5. Further metal separation: Aluminium, copper and brass metals are separated from low/non-metallic materials using eddy currents, where rapidly alternating magnetic fields make non-ferrous materials leap away from the conveyor belt, whilst other material drops straight down off the conveyor belt.

  6. Water separation: Plastics are separated from glass and printed circuit boards and copper wire using an inclined table, water and oscillating movements.

Where does Wales’ Waste electrical and electronic equipment recycling go?

Top 12 countries (selected materials)

Where does Wales’ Waste electrical and electronic equipment recycling go?

Top 12 countries (selected materials)

Top 10 UK recycling destinations

Top world recycling destinations