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New challenge for producers of refrigerators

26.11.2003


The European Union has introduced a directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). The directive makes producers responsible for the recycling of the electrical and electronic equipment that they put on the market. The results from a study of refrigerators made by CIT Elektronik, Chalmers Industriteknik in Sweden, indicate that the targets of the WEEE directive can not be achieved with the ordinary shredders used today. The study is based on the situation in Sweden, but it will be much the same in other European countries.



CIT Ekologik AB has on commission of Stiftelsen Svenskt Kretslopp, and in cooperation with Electrolux Home Products Operations AB, carried out a comparative cost benefit analysis of recycling electrical and electronic equipment. The main objective of this study has been to assess and compare the environmental and economic performance of recycling of two similar electrical or electronic products, in order to enhance the knowledge of the costs for recycling.

The production of electrical and electronic products is one of the most rapid growing domains of manufacturing industry in the western world today. The rapid growth of consumption of electrical and electronic products increases the generation of waste as well. In January 2003, the European Union introduced a directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). The directive makes producers responsible for the recycling of the electrical and electronic equipment that they put on the market. By 2006 producers will have to meet recycling and recovery targets mandated by this directive.


In the study two similar products have been analysed in order to:
• compare the economic costs for the recycling of the products,
• study if there are any environmental differences when recycling the products.

The study comprises an environmental analysis based on life cycle assessment (LCA), economic analysis, and a cost benefit analysis. Two types of refrigerators, containing the cooling agents hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) and hydrocarbons (HC) respectively, have been studied. The refrigerators are assumed to be collected from the Swedish households and to be recycled in Sweden. The results of this study show i.a.:
  • that the targets of the WEEE directive for material recycling of refrigerators will not be achieved if the ordinary shredders of today are used,

  • that glass, plastics, and PURfoam (polyuretan foam) must be recycled to a greater extent than today. One problem is that there are difficulties in recycling PURfoam and a lack of use of recovered foam toda,.

  • that the targets of the WEEE directive for material recycling of refrigerators can be achieved if the refrigerator shredders of today are complemented with additional technology,

  • that the targets of the WEEE directive for material recycling of refrigerators decrease the environmental load and the environmental costs, but increase the business economic costs.

Jorun Fahle | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ekologik.cit.chalmers.se

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