Why we need to recycle

As consumers buy more and more products (such as electronic devices), product lifecycles consistently decrease. This increases waste volume, such as discarded packaging and batteries and disused devices.

Effective recycling solutions benefit people, businesses, and the environment.

What can be recycled?

We believe recycling should be simple.

However, with so many types of products and materials, and multiple packaging symbols, it’s not always easy to distinguish what is recyclable from what isn’t.

To help simplify things, we’ve assembled an interactive guide of what you can and can’t recycle, with some general information about what happens during recycling and what can be reused.

Learn about the recycling process by selecting the icons below.

Large domestic appliances

This category includes appliances such as washing machines, cookers, dishwashers and tumble dryers.

The first stage of recycling is decontamination: cables and other electrical components are removed; ballasts, plastics, iron compounds and other metals are separated and recovered. These materials are then sent for further processing and recovery.

Recycling process

  1. Pre-shedding decontamination
  2. Shredding
  3. Separation

Recovered Materials

  • Cables
  • Concrete
  • Capacitator
  • Plastic
  • Ferrous Metal
  • Non-Ferrous Metal

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Cooling appliances

Products includes fridges, freezers and any appliances with refrigerating devices such as water coolers. Some appliances also contain refrigerant gases classified as Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), hydro-fluorocarbons (HFC) and hydro-chlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) that are now banned.

These gases are captured and treated in ODS recovery plants. Cold appliance de-pollution entails a variety of processes: compressors are decontaminated to recover ODS and oils; insulating foam is treated to recover ODS; metals are salvaged and resold; and plastics can be re-used for new products. Recovered oils and ODS are destroyed in a specialised treatment process.

Recycling process

  1. Decontamination
  2. Shredding
  3. Separation
  4. Foam decontamination

Recovered Materials

  • Gas
  • Oil
  • Foam
  • Plastic
  • Ferrous Metal
  • Non-Ferrous Metal

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Display equipment

Display equipment includes cathode ray tubes (found in old style TV sets and computer monitors) and flat screen TVs and computer monitors, such as plasma and liquid crystal displays (LCD).

Cathode ray tubes (CRT) contain hazardous phosphor powder, leaded glass, copper and other rare metals. These materials can be re-used to make new products. Panel and funnel glass from the cathode ray tubes are also recovered. The coating on the funnel glass is removed and the glass is cleaned for new CRT manufacture.

Most LCD TVs use mercury lamps to light the screen. To remove the lamps, the appliance must be disassembled before processing the LCD screen. Research is currently being carried out to develop more effective, automated solutions.

Recycling process

  1. Hand dismantling
  2. Cathode ray tubes separation (Pb, Ba)
  3. Crushing and metal removal
  4. Glass cleaning

Recovered Materials

  • Ferrous Metal
  • Non-Ferrous Metal
  • Monitor Body and Electronics
  • Circuit Board
  • Leaded Glass
  • Unleaded Glass

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Small appliances

This is the most complicated WEEE stream as a wide variety of materials can be recovered: wood, metal, plastic, glass and cardboard.

This category includes: appliances for cleaning (e.g. vacuum cleaners, carpet sweepers, etc.), appliances used for sewing, knitting, weaving and other processing for textiles, irons and other appliances for ironing, mangling and other care of clothing, toasters, fryers, grinders, coffee machines and equipment for opening or sealing containers or packages, electric knives, appliances for hair cutting, hair drying, tooth brushing, shaving, massage and other body care appliances, clocks, watches and equipment for the purpose of measuring, indicating or registering time, etc. These appliances are shredded and plastics are separated from metals. Initial decontamination includes removal of ink toners, cartridges, batteries and cables.

Recycling process

  1. Manual pre-treatment
  2. Crushing
  3. Picking station
  4. Shredding
  5. Separation

Recovered Materials

  • Cables
  • Fine Materials
  • Waste
  • Individual Components
  • Ferrous Metal
  • Non-Ferrous Metal
  • Plastic

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Gas discharge lamps

This category includes fluorescent tubes and low energy light bulbs, also known as compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), while old-style filament light bulbs and halogen lights are not categorised as WEEE.

Lamps are crushed and washed or treated in pressurised containers. Specialised machines are used to remove the hazardous mercury and phosphor. Then, the remaining material is sorted into glass, metals and plastics.

Phosphor powder and recovered mercury can be re-used to make new lamps. The crushed glass can be used for furnace linings or, if pure enough, to make new lamps. Aluminium end caps are smelted and other metals are recycled.

Recycling process

  1. Shredding
  2. Separation
  3. Dust recovery

Recovered Materials

  • Ferrous Metal
  • Non-Ferrous Metal
  • Mercury

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Batteries

Batteries or accumulators are any source of electrical energy generated by direct conversion of chemical energy and consisting of one or more primary battery cells (non-rechargeable) or consisting of one or more secondary battery cells (rechargeable).

Most types of batteries contain toxic heavy metals, including nickel, cadmium and mercury. All of these metals can be recovered and re-used. Recycling batteries is good for the environment as it keeps them out of landfill, where heavy metals may leak into the ground, causing soil and water pollution and endangering animal and plant life. If batteries are incinerated with household waste, the heavy metals inside them cause air pollution.

Recycling process

  1. Sorting
  2. Shredding

Recovered Materials

  • Plastic
  • Metal
  • Acid
  • Lead
  • Manganese
  • Zinc
  • Cobalt
  • Mercury
  • Cadmium
  • Nickel

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Packaging

This category includes paper, cardboard, plastics, polystyrenes, steel, aluminium, glass and wood.

Many of these materials can be recycled into new products and recycling packaging reduces the amount of waste that is sent to landfill and saves natural resources.

Recycling Process

  1. Collection
  2. Separation
  3. Decoating (if coated)
  4. Melting
  5. Casting
  6. Manufacture

Recycling Process

  1. Collection
  2. Treatment (including sorting, cleaning and decontamination)
  3. Crushing and melting
  4. Manufacture

Recycling Process

  1. Collection
  2. Processing (including de-inking, cleaning and screening)
  3. Manufacture

Recycling Process

  1. Collection
  2. Compacting
  3. Melting
  4. Casting
  5. Rolling
  6. Manufacture

Recycling Process

  1. Collection
  2. Sorting and separation
  3. Shredding
  4. Treatment
  5. Manufacture

Recycling Process

  1. Collection
  2. Segregation
  3. Decontamination
  4. Production
  5. Final products

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