London has the scale and the opportunity to be one of the leading cities in the promotion of reuse and repair of electricals and electronics, the prevention of e-waste, and recycling.
London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) asked us last year to review its “roadmap for circular economy of electricals” and to analyse best practices in Europe. LWARB has now published an executive summary of this research.
As a part of our research, we interviewed local authorities, reuse organisations, professional repairers, businesses and the waste industry. We identified a range of opportunities to increase reuse, repair and recycling in London. Crucially many raised the environmental harm caused by e-waste and the continuing level of disposal of e-waste to landfill and incineration.
Drawing from our interviews and research of best practices across Europe, we have developed recommendations to implement such approaches here in London.
What we found in London
London should invest in these key priorities:
- Learning from what works best in different local authorities and roll out uniform metrics to assess the increase of overall waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) collections across London, while monitoring the levels of electricals in residual waste.
- Improving communication to Londoners about how to and where to repair, reuse and recycle electricals and electronics.
- Celebrating and supporting the work of London’s huge range of community organisations, vibrant charity retail and re-use organisations, as well as commercial repairers and startups working on electricals.
- Increasing the public’s awareness of the positive role that re-use, repair and extended product lifespans will play in a low-carbon economy.
Learning for London from the UK and Europe
After an extensive review of initiatives across Europe, we focused on six key examples which were selected as case studies. These included Millor Que Nou (Barcelona, Spain), De Kringwinkel (Flanders, Belgium), the E-Waste Race (Netherlands), Repair Network Vienna, Tech Takeback (Brighton and Hove) and Scotland’s sustainable procurement.
These cases gave us valuable insights into the provision and promotion of reuse and repair services, the development of innovative collection services, and the impact of policy and legislative frameworks.
And we drew from them some key learnings which should inform London’s future actions, including the importance of measuring outcomes like social inclusion and education when evaluating reuse and repair projects, as well as the importance of collaboration between initiatives to work at different scales. We also highlighted the power of awareness-raising, given that many consumers are still unsure of what to do with unwanted electricals.
Objectives for system change
The overall vision of LWARB in London for a “transition to the circular economy in the electricals sector” aims to
send zero electricals to disposal (landfill or incineration), act as a regional electricals hub for collection, re-use and recycling, and re-use more electrical gadgets in the capital
This level of ambition requires system change that can’t be achieved by any organisation on its own, also due to the limited funding available for the electrical sector – which continues not to be a top priority.
Our review proposes that London set the following objectives to focus the delivery of the vision:
- Advocate for policies enabling the circular economy transition, starting with the review of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for the WEEE sector.
- Lead by example through public procurement, ensuring it includes repair and reuse.
- Encourage actions by local authorities to mobilise stored domestic WEEE for re-use and recycling.
- Support the establishment of a knowledge-sharing group including charities, re-use organisations, community repair and circular economy businesses to promote re-use and repair in the capital.
- Develop a communications campaign to promote London-wide opportunities for re-use and repair.
- Continue to support small and medium businesses to transition to circular economy business models in the electrical sector.
- Support the delivery of a local communications campaign on WEEE recycling, in line with the upcoming national campaign to be run by the WEEE Fund.
- Support emerging good practice from local authorities on WEEE recycling.
We’ve also emphasised that LWARB should promote and support work by community organisations, charities and businesses, to help deliver its vision, for example by exploring the feasibility of creating a London repair network and by developing a London-wide repair directory.