How to get the most out of e-waste recycling (WEEE)?

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A few weeks ago we talked about the boom in electronic waste and how this posed a great challenge for the recycling industry due to its unstoppable growth. Today we continue on this theme by talking about the recycling of electrical equipmentelectronic waste or WEEE.

What is WEEE

WEEE or waste electrical and electronic equipment is any electronic device that is discarded, including sub-assemblies and consumables (e.g. batteries). These products that have already been used can be refurbished, resold, disposed of or recycled through recovery. Some of these products could be computers, mobile phones, telephones or lamps.

Procedure for the recycling of electrical and electronic equipment

Did you know that approximately 70% of each of these devices can be reused and turned into a raw material? In order to get the most out of these materials and recycle them correctly, the following steps are generally followed:

  • Collection and transport of the waste to treatment plants for these materials, as well as their storage.
  • Identification, weighing and documentation of the waste in order to be able to carry out the best possible follow-up of the recycling process. 
  • Dismantling, decontamination and manual separation of the different components and materials that make up the equipment.
  • Mechanical treatment of waste/ fragmentation: waste that is not dismantled manually is crushed and separated using machinery: plastics, ferrous waste, non-ferrous waste, light waste (fluff) or glass.
  • Smelting, for the recovery of metal components.
  • Chemical recycling, to recover precious metals that can be found on printed circuit boards.
  • Division and creation of new products: in this step, new products are valorised and generated, thus reaching the end of the process. 

Importance of the recycling of electrical equipment

Recovery and reuse in the field of WEEE through authorised waste managers is absolutely essential in order to be able to deal with the exponential growth of this waste. Not only because of the importance of recycling, knowing that it is an indisputable necessity for the environment, but also to make our society’s economy as sustainable as possible.

Electronic devices make our lives easier, and without them we would not understand life as such, but many of their components are highly polluting. It is therefore essential that we all contribute to their recycling, helping to care for the environment and our surroundings.

These devices are still sitting in landfills under tons of other worthless rubbish, and as a consequence we have a high environmental impact of e-waste. In fact, the Spanish Federation of Electrical Appliance Retailers (FECE), carried out a study where they revealed the potential of recycling 48 computers.

“All these computers weigh around one tonne and, if recycled, would allow 538 kilos of metals to be recovered, including iron, copper and aluminum; 221 kilos of glass, 202 kilos of plastic and 0.0048 grams of precious metals”, according to the FECE.

However, it is the data provided by mobile phones that gives food for thought: “With 10,000 mobile phones, which would weigh around one tonne, we could recover 620 kilos of plastic of different qualities, 250 kilos of metals such as aluminium and copper and up to 8 grams of precious metals such as silver, gold and palladium”, they explain.

Electronic scrap recycling would facilitate the recovery of these components, eliminating the need to manufacture them from scratch, thus contributing to the circular economy.

Discover in our blog articles in which we talk about everything you need to know as a waste manager, such as European Waste List codes. Also, on our platform you can access all kinds of advertisements about buying scrap or selling scrap. We are waiting for you!

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