Join our investigation into reuse at UK recycling centres 🕵️

Last year, we spent a week examining every electronic and electrical device brought into a household reuse and recycling centre in West London. As you may remember, we tested hundreds of devices destined for the recycling shredder. And, shockingly, we found that almost half of them could have been reused instead :exploding_head:

As we noted at the time, while lots of products should be recycled, many shouldn’t be anywhere near the recycling bin. Instead they should be living a longer, or a second life in the hands and the homes of people that can use them. By focusing exclusively on recycling, we’re wasting more than we need to. Based on this study, we estimated that over 30,000 perfectly reusable small electrical and electronic products could be “wasted” in recycling skips at Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs) – every week.

Our experience in West London left us with a lot of questions. But one that’s stuck with us is this…

How many recycling centres actually offer reuse options for electrical devices in the UK?

We know that in some parts of the UK, waste authorities and waste management companies are testing out ways to separate reusable items from waste. We’ve even seen some of these in action. But industry insiders tell us that reuse remains rare, especially for electronic and electrical products. If true, this means we’re missing a huge opportunity to reduce waste and make the most of the products we have.

Right now, it’s hard to assess the state of reuse because there is surprisingly little public information about how common these initiatives are across the country. So now we plan to look into this ourselves and we need your help!

Help us answer this question :man_detective:

We’re looking for volunteers to join us for Project BREW :teapot: – a deep dive into the world of Household Waste and Recycling Centres.

Together we’ll investigate how many offer opportunities to reuse products, and we’ll have conversations with the staff on the ground about their work and the barriers they may face to moving beyond just recycling.

Don’t worry if you don’t know anything about waste management yet. We’ll brief you on everything you need to know.

All you need to take part is an internet-connected device and a sense of curiosity!

If you’d like to learn more, come along to our information session on 2024-05-30T18:00:00Z

Register here

I recently attended an open evening at the Renew Centre in Trafford, Greater Manchester which is run by Suez, who run all the tips and do rubbish collections. They do a limited amount of repair/upcycling alongside re-use. The only repair they do is simple swapping out of components. I have no idea what percentage of electric waste this represents. They don’t recycle sewing machines as they don’t have anyone with the expertise so they have agreed to give them to me so I can service/repair them and pass them on.


That’s great to hear Nigel! Hopefully that’ll mean more sewing machines finding their way back into circulation!

A few of my Restart colleagues went up to visit SUEZ’s Renew Hub last year. From what they said, it sounds like an impressive operation, albeit one that doesn’t focus too much on repair (as you say). I think it would be fascinating to better understand the challenges of scaling up repair at these kinds of facilities. Hopefully we can touch on this during this project!