WEEE and Midlands’ recycling plants saved millions of tonnes of electronics from landfill

Over 200 million electrical items have been diverted from landfill during an 18-year partnership between Ireland’s largest e-waste recycling scheme and a family-owned recycling firm, new data shows.

WEEE Ireland and KMK Metals Recycling in Co Offaly have collected and recycled more than half a million tonnes of electrical waste since 2005 – the equivalent of 69 Eiffel Towers.

The vital materials recovered from the end-of-life items are available for reuse in manufacturing, resulting in less mining for new materials. 

Steel, plastic and glass make up the top three materials extracted, with over 20,000 tonnes recovered annually through KMK’s specialised recycling processes in Offaly and Westmeath.

Other valuable and scarce precious metals derived include aluminium, copper and zinc.

Ministers Ossian Smyth and Pippa Hackett visited the KMK Metals Recycling plants in Tullamore and Kilbeggan to witness how the collaboration has successfully steered millions of pieces of e-waste away from landfill.

“The scale and sophistication of treatment here is truly impressive. It is vital that these resources are captured and the critical raw materials reused,” said  

Minister of State Smyth, who has responsibility for Public Procurement, eGovernment and the Circular Economy.

“However, the volume of waste material here shows the massive opportunities that we have to become much more circular. I want to see Ireland making much more of our electronics and electrical appliances before they become waste.

“Through repair and reuse, we can keep these assets in use for much longer and reduce the waste we need to process. 

“This keeps costs down for everyone. Longer lived products also means we extract fewer raw materials from the environment and enhance the security of supply chains.”

Leo Donovan, CEO of WEEE Ireland, said old electronics are “an incredibly rich source of precious metals and other raw materials” that are often very difficult to extract from the earth.

“Since 2005, KMK’s recycling facilities have been the anchor point for our successful Irish WEEE management system across the country.

“Through hard work and extensive investment, together we have developed a national recycling and material recovery infrastructure, giving us world-class EN 50625 certified e-waste facilities in Ireland.” 

According to the 2021 annual reports of both companies, the top three categories of e-waste recycled through KMK were large household appliances (16,000 tonnes), small appliances (11,000 tonnes) and TVs/monitors (3,000 tonnes).

These were collected through a diverse network of retail collection points, civic amenity sites and WEEE Ireland free public collection events.

As the only dedicated waste battery sorting and management facility in Ireland, KMK also collected and segregated over 18,000 tonnes – the equivalent to nearly a billion AA batteries – on behalf of WEEE Ireland since they began working together under the European Battery Directive obligations in 2008.

Minister of State with responsibility for Land Use and Biodiversity, Pippa Hackett said “This is a great example of how companies working together can achieve positive results. They have embraced the green transition and have also provided stable, secure employment in the Midlands.”

“KMK Metals Recycling are at the forefront in ensuring that the valuable raw materials used in the production of electrical goods are being recycled and given a new lease of life supporting a more circular economy,” said Kurt Kyck, MD of KMK Metals Recycling.

“Hazardous materials, particularly in older appliance types, need safe environmental depollution.

“And this must be carried out in EPA-licensed specialist recycling plants and not in general metal shredding facilities.”

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