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The stairlift provides vital accommodation for our ageing population and those with mobility or fatigue problems, by ensuring safe and simple access between floors. However, disposal of these complex machines poses a challenge for any company or individual concerned about sustainability.
If you’ve never needed to think about disposing of a used stairlift before, this article shows you four ways to deal with an unwanted used stairlift with minimal impact on our fragile Earth.
Stairlifts and sustainability
The electrical stairlift dates to the 1920s and 1930s, invented and targeted towards people disabled after contracting polio. Nowadays, the stairlift helps older people and disabled people stay in their own homes and improves access to businesses and facilities for mobility impaired workers and customers. Globally, millions of stairlifts are installed and removed every year, a figure expected to rise.
However, the world’s resources are not limitless. No business operating today can afford to ignore their obligation to safeguard Earth’s natural reserves and fellow humans. An average domestic stairlift costs less than £15 a year to run, and a well-built stairlift, used and maintained properly, can last decades. The environmental costs of a stairlift are therefore mostly bound up in its manufacture and eventual disposal.
The good news is that with careful consideration, you can arrange stairlift removal in a way that is both environmentally sustainable and socially beneficial.
Most sustainable: Donate!
Donating your unwanted or unneeded used stairlift is a fantastic option.
It is best to keep it local and contact a suitable organisation nearby. A charity usually can’t take mobility items for resale directly (for safety reasons) but could put you in touch with relevant third parties.
Alternatively, some social enterprises specialise in refurbishing used disability equipment, and some stairlift companies accept donations for charity partners.
A suitably reconditioned stairlift can be sold at low cost to those who need them or sold with the money going to charity, or perhaps passed on within a community.
Donations not only offer the same environmental benefits as recycling (below) but also help someone in genuine need. Although modern stairlifts are much cheaper than their previous counterparts, many people – especially in the current economic situation – simply cannot afford them.
Donation is not only practical and responsible, it also has the greatest feel-good factor of all options. That’s why donating a used stairlift is in the top spot of this list.
Often the first thing most people think of in relation to environmental issues, recycling is a great way to manage a used stairlift – particularly if it is non-functional or outdated. Many of the metal, plastic, and electronic components are recyclable, reducing waste and conserving natural resources. Choosing to recycle a stairlift means less extraction of new raw materials (like metals, minerals and oil) and prevents toxic chemicals like mercury, cadmium and lead escaping from discarded electrical components.
Stairlifts can be difficult to recycle because of their size and weight, but increasingly, stairlift manufacturers will refurbish and re-use components. To ensure the stairlift components don’t end up being handled by child labour or contaminating another country, it’s well worth checking your chosen recycler is just as responsible as you are.
If the stairlift is currently in good working condition, reselling is a third option. You will find resale values for second-hand stairlifts vary depending on age, make & model, quality and condition. Curved stairlifts prove significantly harder to resell (or donate) because they are shaped to fit a specific staircase.
You can sell used stairlifts privately online, and a quick look at eBay shows over 600 used stairlifts and home lifts currently for sale in the UK. If selling online in this way, you need to be fully honest about the previous use, age, condition of the device, and ensure it is safe to sell on.
Some stairlift manufacturers or installers buy back a used stairlift, or another company might purchase it with a view to refurbishment. A big advantage of reselling to a stairlift company is reducing the stress of a private sale.
And, if you are seeking a replacement stairlift, some companies might offer a ‘part exchange’.
Least sustainable: Scrap – Responsibly!
If donating, recycling, or reselling the used stairlift is not an option, it still requires careful disposal.
Scrapping a used stairlift is the least sustainable option – although sometimes necessary. Remember, big fines follow if you ignore your legal obligations regarding waste disposal, so don’t cut corners.
If you must scrap a stairlift, do so through a reputable and local waste management centre. In the UK, your local council can advise whether its sites will take a stairlift, and you may find a charge attached to large or commercial items.
Depending on the size of the stairlift, transporting it to the tip can be difficult. Your local council may charge a fee for a collection service, or you can hire a specialist removal company who will also charge. It’s critical to ensure that any company you hire has the permits to dispose of stairlifts and/or electrical waste.
Fortunately, most council sites and private providers try to recycle as much as possible these days. However, for any stairlift in working order, scrapping should absolutely remain your last resort.
If you’ve never needed to think about disposing of a used stairlift before, now you know how!
Disposing of a used mechanical asset like a stairlift can be a challenge for your business. However, donating, recycling and reselling are three fantastic and sustainable options that reduce raw material consumption and could offer a helping hand to those in need. Scrapping the stairlift is the least sustainable option, but you can still do it both safely and responsibly.