Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Recycling of Europe's Electronic Waste Could be Improved

16.11.2007
Low Collection Rates and Consumer Awareness, Rising Need to Harmonize Regulations, Says United Nations University Report for European Commission

Only about 25% of Europe’s medium sized household appliances and 40% of larger appliances are collected for salvage and recycling, leaving “substantial room for improvement,” according to a study for the European Commission by a United Nations University-led consortium. Small appliances, with a few exceptions, are close to zero percent collection.

“The study suggests possible long-term collection rate targets of around 60% for small appliances like MP3 players and hairdryers, as well as for medium sized audio equipment, microwaves and TV’s and 75% for large appliances like refrigerators and washing machines. If implemented, these targets would lead to a reported European harvest of roughly 5.3 million tonnes of e-waste by 2011, up from 2.2 million tonnes today,” says study manager Ruediger Kuehr of UNU’s office in Bonn, Germany.

The study predicts that across the EU27 (see http://europa.eu/abc/european_countries/index_en.htm) e-waste will rise 2.5 to 2.7% per year - from 10.3 million tonnes generated in 2005 (about one-quarter of the world’s total) to roughly 12.3 million tonnes per year by 2020.

The EU Directive on WEEE (Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment) prescribes a collection rate of 4 kg per capita. However, the study points up large differences in collection rates today between EU member states. And while the 4 kg target can be met easily by wealthier member states, it represents a very challenging target for new members, the study says.

Today’s low collection rates result in part from low public awareness and represent a major cause of concern, according to Steve Ogilvie of AEA Technology, who calculated the amounts of EEE arising as waste.

“There are clear benefits to the environment to collect and treat all forms of e-waste,” says the lead study author Jaco Huisman of UNU. “However, salvaging and recycling different types of e-waste benefits the environment to different degrees in terms of reducing toxic pollution, conserving natural resources, reducing energy consumption and preventing emissions that cause global warming and ozone layer depletion. We therefore recommend differentiated collection targets for different e-waste categories.

“For instance, the top environmental priority is to gain control over the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in old refrigerators,” says Dr. Huisman, who also conducted the environmental evaluation for the study. “By increasing the reported EU27 collection rate from the 27% achieved in 2005 to the suggested 75% by 2011, a major reduction of chemicals destroying the ozone layer would be achieved but also, because CFCs are a powerful greenhouse gas, it would save the equivalent of roughly 34 million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere."

Improving e-waste collection is also key to preventing toxic pollution. An estimated 4.3 tonnes of mercury was contained in the estimated 660 million energy saving light bulbs sold in the EU27 in 2006, with approximately 2.8 tonnes more contained in LCD panels. “Consumers need to help control this toxic danger by getting discarded waste to qualified recyclers for proper treatment,” says Dr. Huisman.

The study says e-waste firms and other stakeholders see a clear need for consistency across the EU in legislative requirements for registering, reporting and other activities, and greater stakeholder awareness of specific responsibilities. A large number of small and medium-sized enterprises were unaware of their legal obligations.

“Our study shows a total financial burden across EU27 of registering and reporting activities of around EUR 40 million, using a baseline assumption of eight hours needed per report,” says Federico Magalini of UNU, responsible for the economic evaluation. However, the financial concern is less of an issue than the hassle for companies active in all EU member states of having to file at least 72 different reports.

“Take back and treatment costs are expected to rise from roughly EUR 0.76 billion in 2005 to EUR 3.0 billion in 2020, with costs varying per category of e-waste,” says Dr. Magalini. “For large household appliances like washing machines or electric stoves, the main cost is transportation. For cooling and freezing appliances, treatment creates the major cost.”

"The rising value of salvaged components has made recycling more economically attractive," he adds.

Generally speaking, the largest environmental improvement and highest cost-efficiency can be realised by moving from an e-waste product-oriented approach to a more meaningful, differentiated e-waste category-oriented approach, says Dr. Huisman.

Other important conditions for success identified in the study:

1. Better enforcement of the key provisions at EU and national levels of all organisational and operational parts of the recycling chain, with emphasis on stopping illegal waste shipments;

2. Splitting the basic legal framework and key responsibilities from operational standards;

3. Simplification and harmonisation of regulations throughout the EU27;

4. Fostering consumer awareness to stimulate greater levels of e-waste collection;

5. Removing the artificial and complicating split between B2B and B2C products and between new and historic waste for both simplification and environmental reasons;

“Electronic products have a great positive impact on our lives,” says UN Under-Secretary-General Konrad Osterwalder, Rector of UNU. “However, their increasing availability and affordability means that they also present a growing environmental problem, one we all personally need to address. The old saying – reduce, reuse, recycle – applies particularly well to electronic waste.”

Wangu Mwangi | alfa
Further information:
http://www.merit.unu.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Japanese researchers develop ultrathin, highly elastic skin display

19.02.2018 | Information Technology

Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?

19.02.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Studying mitosis' structure to understand the inside of cancer cells

19.02.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>