Understanding End of Life Management

As published by FM World

There are many factors to consider when purchasing. Juggling these conflicting criteria can be a real challenge.  Clearly cost is a major factor along with quality, compatibility, and increasingly the environmental credentials of the manufacturer. In recent years the disposal of the old equipment has been included.

Very rarely though have I seen much attention given to the end of life management of the new kit being purchased.  I find this very short-sighted as the purchase of today soon becomes the disposal concern of tomorrow.  The WEEE directive, which covers waste electrical and electronic goods, shows the way forward. It follows the long established waste hierarchy and sets tough standards for Reusing, Recycling and Recovery of redundant electrical products.

The Waste Hierarchy is a league table of how best to deal with waste.  Not creating it at all is obviously best so reduction is top.  Where a product is procured the best way to dispose of it environmentally and socially is to Reuse it.  Reuse is significantly better for the environment than recycling.  Keeping a product intact and extending its life with a simple repair will save more resources, use less energy and help more people than recycling ever can.  Reuse includes remanufacturing where a product is reengineered.  This requires very low energy inputs and keeps a lot of the original product intact.

3rd in the league is Recycling.  It makes good use of the materials in the product and prevents the material being lost in landfill.  It involves using energy to take the materials back to their pre-manufactured state and to reform them into a new product.

Recovery is not re-upholstery!  Recovery is producing energy by burning.  Typically it realises less than 20% of the energy that was actually required to make the product but as a last report it is better than landfill.

On a recent visit to Green-Works, Environment Minister Lord Henley was clear that he considered “Reuse to be the premier solution” and Reuse has been prominently included in the London Mayors draft waste strategy.   The regulators have set the standard – who will step forward to meet it?

Companies that aspire to being in the Premier League and to lead on the environment should really examine what they require when specifying new products and when disposing of end of life waste.  Are they being the best they can be or are they just following the pack?

The onus, as always, is on the FM to achieve the highest possible standard.