Insurers Can Accelerate The UK Circular Economy

Maybe you’ve never heard of the circular economy, but it has a lot going for it. Instead of continuing to throw away old electrical items, cars, watches, clothing, handbags and so on, we can repair and re-use them, upcycle, refurb – whatever you want to call it. Fact is, recycling saves on landfill, pluis using fresh resources to make and transport goods, often from the Far East. It also helps create UK jobs and small businesses.

But if you want to go further than selling old clothes on Vinted, then you need a small unit, maybe a physical shop and the skills to refurbish and check items like laptops, kitchen appliances, smartphones or vehicle parts are safe to use. This means you need insurance.

A typical tradesperson’s Commercial policy can be customised to suit the items being sold and the risks involved. For example as modern kitchens feature fridges that alert the owner when food is running low, or washing machines sync to something like a Leakbot that detects a drop in water pressure. A laptop might have someone’s data in old files and that needs to be 100% wiped to comply with GDPR regs. All these extra app-based, smart-tech features, such as the way a device connects with other smarthome devices like Alexa or Hive, need to be tested and signed off before resale. Not just the gadget’s primary function of cooking food, freezing food or washing & drying clothes.


As you might expect Sweden is way ahead of the UK on this. From 2017 onwards shops and workshops who specialised in refurbs and repairs, rather than simply selling new stuff, could pay less tax on the resale of those goods. You can also recycle old clothing via big brands like H&M; basically they take in old clothing and then it’s cleaned, shredded into fibres and spun into new yarn. Nespresso worked with Swedish firm RE:CYCLE in 2016 to create a bicycle frame from reused Nespresso pods.

But it isn’t just big brands, there are insurers in Sweden who are creating on-demand cover for small biz start-ups who want to repair and then re-sell items. Omocon will break down the cover into transport of the goods, then the refurb stage, and then the sale, so they’re covering the stock value like a normal Commercial policy. It’s a clever API platform that lets people buy the cover they need to fulfill their part of the circular economy process. Find out more here.

There are circular economy innovators everywhere of course. In the Netherlands you can hire designer jeans, rather than buying them, so once you’ve posed at a summer festival in them, you can return them so another hipster can get the same vibe. In Serbia, a company called Vinmov is refurbishing old Swiss watch movements, recasing them and giving them another 20-30 years of life. There are also companies in the UK who are leading the way, especially in electricals.


IE mag spoke to Martin Mcleod, CEO at ILM Highland, who refurbish and re-sell electrical goods, to find out what the challenges are in the UK and how insurance brands can do better in the future.

Was it difficult at first to find an insurer/broker to cover refurbished electricals?

“ILM Highland has a longstanding relationship with its insurers. We have been involved in the refurbishment of domestic appliances, including cookers, washing machines and fridges, for over 10 years. So, when it came time to launch our Laptops to Chromebooks project – recycling old and unwanted computers into affordable Chromebooks – we were able to build further on this relationship.”

Are you part of an industry training body or association, ensuring electrical appliances are tested and signed off before being sold on again?

“ILM Highland is a member of the Reuse Network, a national body supporting third sector organisations with the refurbishment of domestic appliances, as well as furniture.

“The Reuse Network has awarded us Approved Reuse Centre status. This means we are annually audited by the organisation to ensure that the correct processes and procedures for repairs are being followed, and that all appliances are safe to sell. All refurbished products are, of course, also PAT tested before being sold.”

ILM CEO Martin Mcleod

Which are the most popular recycled appliances?

“Refurbished washing machines and cookers are our biggest sellers throughout the year. During late autumn and early winter, we also see a surge of interest in tumble dryers, as customers are unable to hang their clothes outside to dry.

“Although certain times of the year may see more sales of certain appliances, though, we are always happy to receive donations of old and unwanted appliances at any time – as the sale of these refurbished items is vital in allowing us to deliver our charitable services to the community.”

How quickly have you grown in the lockdown as parts supply chain issues have developed?

“Lockdown has not had any significant effect on our supply of new parts for domestic appliances. With every appliance, we look at the economic viability of a repair prior to purchasing parts – if this can be achieved, then we will progress with the repair.

“We also provide a Spares & Repairs service, offering customers access to affordable spare parts for their own home repairs – again encouraging people to extend the lifespan of their appliances, rather than consigning them to landfill.

“Where we have seen a supply issue is with electronics, however this is less to do with lockdown and more with cost. Electronic components are often prohibitively expensive, meaning that it doesn’t make economic sense to repair an item – instead, in this case, we can strip it for usable parts and recycle the rest of the materials responsibly.”

How do you see the future; do we need more legislation on recycling parts, easier designs so you can replace essential parts without completely stripping something down? Do you think modern ECU/chips and their many functions mean that we are tied to that original ECU supplier?

“The way things currently stand, the cost of some parts – especially ECU/chips – can make appliance repairs very difficult. Availability of these parts needs to be increased, and at a more affordable price, to allow owners of appliances to have them repaired in an economical manner, preventing the products from being disposed of.”


Rapid repair of items like smartphones and laptops is fairly easy to find in the UK. But try getting a dishwasher, cooker or fridge fixed within 3 days.

What are the features your biz needs in an insurance policy?

“We are lucky to have a strong working relationship with our insurers. We look for an open dialogue with our insurers – ensuring they know exactly how the work we undertake happens. Having this long-term relationship and providing a full understanding of the works carried out makes things far simpler.”

About ILM Highland

ILM Highland is a social enterprise and charity, supporting vulnerable people in the Scottish Highlands to live at home – giving them greater independence and freedom. It achieves this through its Handyperson and Care & Repair services, providing assistance with small and large home repairs and improvements.

ILM Highland’s charitable services are supported by income generated from its professional and fully certified service for businesses to dispose of their waste electronic and electrical equipment; a domestic small and large electrical recycling service; and its shop in Alness and online, which sells a wide selection of new and refurbished electrical appliances, refurbished Chromebooks, and spare parts for appliance repairs.

To find out more about ILM Highland, and its new refurbished Chromebook project, please visit 




About alastair walker 12109 Articles
20 years experience as a journalist and magazine editor. I'm your contact for press releases, events, news and commercial opportunities at Insurance-Edge.Net

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