Managing director of AO Business Anthony Sant talks about upcoming changes to appliance recycling and how retailers will be expected to play their part
The government has big plans for protecting the environment and expects business and industry to play a key role.
A slew of legislation and regulatory changes are set to come in over the next few years.
Most importantly for the sector are rules that will impact on how it deals with old kitchen appliances removed during refurbishment.
To date, these appliances have frequently fallen through the gap when it comes to being recycled responsibly.
We know from working in the sector that, often, the old appliances removed are left in skips on driveways, which are targeted by unscrupulous scrap metal dealers.
Yes, there is value in old appliances when they don’t have to deal with the hazardous components correctly, but the valuable components have to be removed responsibly or the environment suffers.
Only regulated recycling plants are legally allowed to carry out this work.
The Government wants to close this gap and put changes in place to collect all the old appliances for responsible recycling.
How does it want to do it? By making all retailers of electrical appliances, including kitchen retailers and suppliers, responsible for collecting and ensuring responsible recycling of any electrical appliance removed from a home when fitting new appliances as part of a kitchen installation.
This is known as Extended Producer Responsibility. The Government wants to increase the recycling levels of old kitchen appliances and cut the number of appliances being illegally disposed of.
If a fridge, for example, is not recycled correctly, harmful gases escape into the environment. Regulations to manage how old appliances are recycled have been in place for more than 15 years.
These latest changes to the regulations, due to come in the next two to three years, will see the responsibility put in your lap.
The regulations are still under review, but the change will likely mean old appliances can no longer be left for removal by the homeowners, local authorities or third parties.
These changes will not just impact on the kitchen sector, all suppliers of electrical appliances, big and small, will have to take more responsibility for recycling.
The changes coming from Government will, of course, impact on us as a business. In particular, the way we collect and recycle old appliances. But we are not starting from scratch and have been preparing for the anticipated changes for several years.
As a responsible retailer, we collect the old appliances from customers when delivering a new one through our own logistics network.
However, we are unusual in that four years ago we took the bold step of opening our own fridge and large appliance recycling plant.
Why did we do this? For us, it has been about doing the right thing and, through responsible recycling, we have now recycled around two million fridges.
We know from our experience of operating within the existing rules and regulations that the sector cannot adapt to these changes overnight and will need to spend time preparing.
We are now working with our customers and trade bodies to see how we can share our knowledge and experience to minimise the impact of the likely changes.
Changes are coming down the track. The Government is set to carry out a consultation on the regulations later this year.
The exact changes have not been finalised, but all the indicators point to the Government putting the responsibility for old appliances firmly at the door of those supplying them.
And why is there so much focus on this sector of the market?
It’s not surprising really, every day the legislators see skips with appliances in or next to them, at risk of being disposed of incorrectly.
There are regular posts on social media showing this happening.
It’s a very clear problem that needs to be solved and putting the responsibility with the retailer solves this in ‘one-fell swoop’.
We have all learnt to be nimble and adapt to rapid change. We now have the benefit of time with these changes, so I would use it wisely – prepare, prepare and prepare again.