Monday, 13 August 2012

Reusing Old Water Coolers

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive has been in force for some time. This is intended to ensure that all electrical appliances such as watercoolers and TV monitors are dismantled and recycled at the  end of their useful life, rather than dumped into landfills.

The cost to the watercooler industry is estimated at between £8 million and £10 million. Invoices should show a recycling charge for all coolers bought or rented. This will help monitor compliance and be checked in distributors’ audits.

However, I am sure that we will see refurbishment and reuse of old product rather than just disposal. Innovative solutions will be created for using component parts of old coolers. Whereas the old material may not be reused for water contact in coolers (due to food-contact materials laws) the manufacturer may trade its recycled materials, similar to the trade in waste polycarbonate.

This initiative is to be applauded, but it raises questions of maintaining good hygiene in refurbished coolers. Surfaces which become worn or develop microcracks are more susceptible to growth of biofilm and  more difficult to clean and disinfect. It is essential, therefore, to have a very efficient cleaning and disinfecting regime.

UV or ozonation may not be completely effective in keeping refurbished coolers free of bacteria. It is important to rely on manual operations- for cleaning, descaling, using appropriate acids, and disinfecting with the best material for dealing with biofilm.

Peroxide, or peroxide synergised with silver, is excellent for destroying biofilm. Descaling is done most cost effectively with high-strength phosphoric acid. 

Because the high-strength materials are difficult to handle, I recommend the use of a dosing device which enables dilution and dispensing into the cooler tank without manual mixing or pouring.  

The issue of refurbishment is still under debate but I expect refurbishment schemes will be developed.

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