Press release 2018-11-21

Every fifth product at recycling centres is reusable

A large part of what we leave at recycling centres is in such good condition that it can be sold in a secondary market. This is shown by a so-called pick-up analysis of nearly 17,000 individual products carried out by IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute and Envir on behalf of Avfall Sverige – the Swedish Waste Management Association.

Johan Hultén

– This study only provides a snapshot that should be interpreted with caution, but it still clearly shows that it is possible to reuse much of what gets thrown away today, says Johan Hultén, Project Manager at IVL.

The pick-up studies were carried out at two different recycling centres, in both autumn and spring. Of the products that were considered reusable, most rarely end up in the second-hand market: e.g., building products, tools and items of furniture. In order for these products to reach the market, new business models are probably needed, such as collaboration with new players to reach new target groups, the authors of the report assert. An example could be through a secondary market for home DIY enthusiasts.

In total, project participants sorted over 15 tonnes of waste – nearly 17,000 products were assessed. More than 300 of these were also examined for hazardous substances. The results of the chemical analyses provided insights into the problem of hazardous substances in reuse. Hazardous substances were found in a significant proportion of products, albeit at low levels.

– It is difficult to generalize the results, it is not as simple as some product types always testing positive for dangerous substances. Two similar products may have different content mixes, says Åsa Hagelin at Waste Sweden. But of course, no way do we want hazardous substances to be reintroduced into the cycle.

About half of the waste consisted of reusable products – which in some cases may contain hazardous substances – or erroneously sorted packaging. This means that there is a lot of room to improve both collection and management at recycling centres if we are to increase resource utilization and decontaminate closed-loop cycles.

Download the report

For more information, please contact:
Johan Hultén, Project Manager IVL Swedish Environmental Institute, +46 (0)10-788 69 15, johan.hulten@ivl.se
Åsa Hagelin, Prevention and Reuse Adviser, Avfall Sverige, +46 (0)70-553 15 45 asa.hagelin@avfallsverige.se