First automated compressor recycling system “raises standards for WEEE treatment in the UK”

An engineer demonstrates technical concepts related to compressor recovery, while Louise Grantham, Finance Director at REPIC, and Cris Stephenson, CEO of Environcom, look on.

The UK’s first compressor dismantling facility has been installed at WEEE recycler Environcom’s recycling plant in Grantham. The new machinery, which is only the second of its kind in Europe, enables the safe dismantling of compressors from refrigerators and other cooling appliances.

The machine, christened CARRIE (Compressor Automated Removal and Recycling Equipment), has been introduced in a bid to raise standards on compressor recovery in the UK and will also reduce the number of compressors currently being exported and recycled in uncontrolled environments. CARRIE will enable the valuable, raw metals found inside compressors to be extracted and recovered within the UK. Producers of refrigerators and cooling appliances will also benefit from the new facility, as it will provide an evidenced audit trail for a greater volume of compressors.

Up until now, there has been no capacity to dismantle compressors in the UK and limited capacity in Europe. Most compressors have been shipped outside of their country of origin, and delivered to countries where recycling is not undertaken to the same standards as within the EU. The beauty of CARRIE is that the process is fully automated and carried out within a controlled environment, achieving the highest standards for environmental control and employee health and safety. By avoiding the need for any transportation abroad the carbon footprint of recycling is also being reduced.

This investment has been made possible by a partnership between Environcom and REPIC, who say they are working together to enable improved standards for WEEE recycling.

“Ensuring that we have safe and efficient compressor dismantling process right here in the UK is crucial in the drive towards a more circular economy,” comments Cris Stephenson, Environcom CEO. “Our collaboration with REPIC has been key, and we hope to lead by example in raising the standards on WEEE treatment in the UK.”

Compressors are most commonly found in fridges and freezers, but can also be found in air conditioning units, vending machines and other cooling appliances. The improper removal of compressors, usually during theft, can release harmful gases into the environment. In addition, copper is a highly valuable metal which can be easily recycled and is also widely used in electrical and electronic products. Equipment like CARRIE is important in maximising the extraction of essential recyclable metals from compressors.

The new machinery will process around 10,000 compressors every week. This is expected to generate up to 28 tonnes of copper and 252 tonnes of steel every month, to be returned into manufacturing and reduce the extraction of virgin raw materials.

Mark Burrows-Smith, CEO of REPIC, comments: “We are extremely proud to be involved in this project, which sees the UK pioneer a more safe, efficient and effective solution to compressor dismantling in the UK. We look forward to seeing the positive benefits which CARRIE will have on the industry.”