Download: MP3 (27MB)
In this episode, we explore what happens to all of our e-stuff when we throw it away. Our favourite waste campaign slogan is quite simple: There is no “away”. So where is this “away”?
And this is what podcaster Dave Pickering finds out on a roadtrip to Kent, to a recycling plant in Sittingbourne. At Sweeep Kuusakoski, the largest plant of its kind in southern England, Dave sees what happens to our small gadgets and appliances when they are taken to be recycled. The process of recouping raw materials out of electronics is quite high tech at Sweeep – and some of what is recouped is quite valuable. To the backdrop of much crunching, and other industrial sounds, Sweep Commercial Director Justin Greenaway explains the ins and outs of the business. Some products, especially screens, present special problems due to the potentially toxic materials used in their production.
We were not surprised to learn, Sweeep’s greatest challenge is actually simply getting more people to recycle, especially smaller electronics and electricals. As we’ve written about in past, recycling rates are abysmally low in Europe, including the UK, and much of it comes down to awareness and accessibility of recycling facilities.
Sue Brown of Havering Council explains the role of the council in collecting waste, and making it easier for residents, and how everything post-collection is handled by large waste contractors.
As Dave concludes, there is not only a question of awareness about the importance of recycling electronics, there is a serious question about access to recycling services, when car-less apartment dwellers, disabled people, and cyclists are forced to make trips to far-away recycling hubs designed for cars.