BLOG: Onwards and upwards for free WEEE Recycling Open Days

   Fri, 18th Dec, 2020

For our final blog of the year, KMK Metals Recycling’s Brian Gibson explains all about free WEEE recycling open days which are usually held all around the country and looks forward to getting them back up and running in 2021.

As KMK Metals Recycling’s open day event organiser my role is normally to work closely with WEEE Ireland, Ireland’s largest national WEEE compliance scheme in planning, organising and executing open days across Ireland. Open days or ‘public collection days’ as they are also known, give members of the public the opportunity to bring their waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) to a convenient location to have it recycled free of charge.

In March 2020, when Covid-19 stopped the country in its tracks, open days were immediately suspended in the interests of public health and safety. Since then, I have been redeployed in other areas of the company but I do miss the diversity of open days and getting out on the road, meeting people all the time.

I have been working on open days for the last 13 years and my favourite part of the year is in the run up to January when I am busy organising a new schedule of events and deciding on locations. We usually host at least 45 open days in a calendar year so there is a lot of planning and coordination needed.

As super contractor to WEEE Ireland, KMK Metals Recycling runs these events on its behalf and therefore I work closely with the WEEE Ireland team.  Weekly meetings are held for advertising and financing purposes. I also provide details of tonnages and weights from the previous open day and I send on photos taken on location for use on social media. Additional meetings will also take place if a new location is required or to change dates of events.

WEEE Ireland run advertising campaigns across local media networks and schedule targeted social media campaigns in order to promote the upcoming events and build awareness about the importance of WEEE recycling in general.

Typically, a lot of open day preparations are completed months in advance. Sites and locations must be pre-arranged to ensure the site is suitable. Each site requires insurance, a site map including coordinates and a traffic management system which must be agreed upon prior to arrival. Typical sites include school or GAA car parks, shopping centres or sometimes somewhere more unique such a racecourse.

One or two weeks prior to the open day I contact the site to ensure everything is in place and that the open day can go ahead. Drivers are arranged and general operatives for the open day are rostered a week in advance. Transport and receptacles are an essential part of an open day. If the location is a long journey away, we typically will stay the night before the open day. The site is prepared at 8am each week with purpose-built large steel cages for WEEE, dedicated battery receptacles and truck-mounted forklifts. Trailers are parked in position and the traffic management system put into action to ensure quick and safe drop-off of material.

A typical open day begins at 8:00am with site preparation. Once the site is prepared all staff will meet for breakfast at a nearby café supporting local restaurants in the community. Once breakfast is complete appropriate PPE is then distributed to staff. The site will then be open for 9:00am to the public.

Cars enter the site following a one-way system and unload material in a safe manner. When unloading from the vehicles, our staff will segregate the WEEE material and remove all cable to a separate cage for processing purposes.

We see all sorts during open days from fridges being brought in on car roofs to items being towed along the ground behind cars where no trailers were available. Sometimes we must turn away people who try to bring in waste that cannot be recycled such as farm plastic, paint, petrol-operated tools and landfill waste.

The day ends at 16:00pm if all drop offs have been completed, although occasionally on busy sites we might not leave until 18:00pm. Once all material has been collected and segregated it is loaded onto trucks and sent to our Tullamore headquarters for weighing and processing.  

Unpredictable Irish weather is often an additional challenge and in many coastal counties we fear strong winds and flooding. Sometimes events have to be cancelled or rescheduled as sites become flooded. Thankfully with appropriate wet suits and a dedicated team we manage to complete many open days in poor weather conditions. It is also great to see many people turning up to recycle WEEE no matter the weather.

I get to experience hospitality at its finest and to visit some of the most beautiful parts of the country through the open days. I love doing some of the island open days in Cork as these are more challenging with the added burden of arranging ferries and boats. However, the scenery on these islands and the small communities turning out in numbers makes the open days so enjoyable. Meeting and talking to families from previous years is always a joy and is something I look forward to. Hotels and B&Bs are also very accommodating with many getting to know us through our annual visits.

We had hoped to have open days back up and running by late 2020 but that hasn’t been possible. With a Covid-19 vaccine almost in place, hopefully in 2021 I can look forward to getting our team back together and meeting everyone once again. Stay tuned to KMK Metals Recycling and WEEE Ireland social media channels for more news on our plans to get operational once again. In the meantime, you can recycle your e-waste for free at participating electrical retailers and at your local recycling/ civic amenity site.