Online electricals retailer AO has announced today that it is to build a second major fridge recycling facility as part of bold moves to support DEFRA and the UK in increasing collections of waste fridges to achieve the national WEEE collection target.

AO has made the move after its Telford plant reached capacity with long term contracted volume and as part of its wider plans to process increasing volumes of appliances from its customers.

The retailer launched its first recycling facility last year with the opening of the state of the art fridge recycling plant in Telford. The plant has already made a significant impact on UK recycling capacity with 700,000 fridges expected to be recycled in its first full processing year – or about one fifth of the 3.5 million appliances thrown away annually.

Now AO has agreed to open a second site in a multi-million pound investment in the South East, which it plans to open in 2019. Once built, AO will have capacity to process around 40% of the fridges collected in the UK. An announcement on the exact location of the plant is expected to be made later in the summer with construction due to start before the end of the year

Steve Caunce, AO CEO, said:

“At AO we pride ourselves on doing the right thing and this announcement today really highlights that. We know that investing in another plant will mean we will be in a unique position to be able to give our customers the confidence that their fridges are always dealt with safely, efficiently and responsibly. 


“As an online retailer, we have the opportunity to be able to ‘take back’ old machines when we deliver a new appliance. It makes sense from a logistics point of view and from an environmental perspective. It will really help to close the loop.”

The build of AO’s second facility will be overseen by Robert Sant, AO Recycling’s Managing Director, to the same environmental standards as the Telford operation which has at its heart a 40-tonne shredding machine.

AO’s Telford recycling operation created 200 jobs and was the first move by the retailer into waste management.

Since then AO has led calls for a transformation in the way WEEE is dealt with in the UK – presenting a 32-page Document for Change to Government in December and setting out the case for increased levels of retailer take-back from consumers. The document also called for a review of the way retailer collections are funded if collection rates are to be increased dramatically.

AO Recycling director Anthony Sant says the two facilities will form the centrepiece of AO’s strategy to take back more of all its customers’ unwanted appliances by 2019. The national WEEE collection target by 2019 is 65% of WEEE placed on the market for the preceding three years.

He said:

We are now trying to build a consensus among retailers, manufacturers, recyclers and policy makers for a WEEE recycling system based on the principle of retailer take-back for large items. The UK has a bold target for collection of WEEE by 2019. To achieve this target progress has to be made industry wide and will only be possible with changes to the way WEEE collections are funded and the creation of a robust logistics network to support widespread home collections.


“We want retailer take-back to become the norm – starting with AO customers who will come to understand that using the retailer to take away their old appliance is better for the environment than allowing these appliances to be left for unregulated collection and disposal methods, which see pollutants being allowed to escape to the atmosphere.”


“If Government support AO in its push to increase responsible WEEE collections we will need the additional recycling capacity provided by a second site to deal with the extra items.”


“For it to work all those involved in the manufacture, sale and disposal of electrical appliances will need to get on board. And we are making a start by setting ourselves a clear, visible and realistic target. But others will need to play their part – we need to put aside competition in order to work towards a common goal.”