Retailer set to become the UK’s largest fridge recycler

Online electricals retailer AO looks set to become the UK's largest fridge recycler, after merging with The Recycling Group (TRG) in a move expected to recycle up to 700,000 fridges annually.

The two firms have launched AO Recycling, and will also process other large waste electrical and electronical equipment (WEEE) streams including washing machines, tumble driers and dishwashers. The joint venture will refurbish appliances brought in by AO customers to a new plant in Telford, before reselling them.

AO Recycling’s marketing director Anthony Sant said: “This is a significant move by AO into the recycling sector. As a retailer, we are constantly looking for ways we can take on all aspects of the supply chain, whether it is sales or logistics. We are now applying ‘The AO way’ to recycling with this exciting new venture.

“We face a big challenge as a country with more and more household electrical items being sold every year. We have to find new and better ways to ensure these items are sustainably and efficiently recycled when they are no longer needed. With the launch of AO Recycling, it means we can play our part as a retailer in ensuring our customers’ old products don’t end up in landfill but are given a new lease of life – either through recycling or reuse.”

AO Recycling will build on TRG’s expertise to “significantly increase” UK WEEE recycling capacity, including an aim to deliver industry-leading recovery rates.

In the UK, more than 260,000 tonnes of fridges were sold in 2016, equating to between 4.8m and 5.5m fridge units. In comparison, more than 3.5m fridges are discarded in the country each year, and current facilities are struggling to deal with capacity.

TRG has closed its recycling plant at Knighton in Powys to focus on operations at Telford, which AO Recycling claims has created 200 jobs. Additionally, all packaging from new AO products can be recycled if brought in by consumers.


The company is aiming to recycle more than 20% of the fridges that are thrown away in the UK annually. AO’s chief executive Steve Caunce has described the merger as a “potential gamechanger”.

“AO and TRG have been a perfect match from the very beginning and together we’re excited to transform the way electrical appliances are recycled in the UK,” Caunce said. “The plant we have built in Telford will set new standards and take the industry to another level.

“Appliances will come to us from AO customers from across the country and the new plant we have built and its state of the art machinery will ensure every scrap of resource is extracted from every item. As with everything we do at AO – this partnership is also about making life easier for our customers.”

The plant can handle more than 100 fridges each hour and conforms to the ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 European standards for environmental impact.

Last year, UK-based IT disposal and asset retirement firm Re-Tek and Axion Consulting were awarded separate trials to explore novel ways to boost the recovery process of critical raw materials (CRMs) from household WEEE.

The boosted capacity for WEEE recycling arrives as England’s recycling rates start to slip. 2015 marked the first time that recycling rates fell in the country, dropping from 44.8% in 2014 to 43.9%.

Matt Mace

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