WEEE Recycling – The potential success

What can be achieved from e-waste recycling?

There are financial values and rewards from WEEE. Most e-waste contains valuable metals that can be recycled and re-used; some products even contain precious metals. Gold and silver are extremely easy to re-use and a small amount can be found in products and gadgets.

The Electronics TakeBack Coalition (ETBC) released figures earlier this year that stated that recycling 1 million cell phones can recover:

  • 50lbs of gold
  • 550lbs of silver
  • 20lbs of palladium
  • 20,000lbs of copper

(www.electronicstakeback.com)

These are just some of the useful re-usable elements that can be found from WEEE.

Office equipment is recyclable

We can all learn from other countries that are more educated on WEEE recycling. Zero Waste in South Africa breaks down how much we can recycle for everyday electrical office equipment. Almost 99% of the components of a PC can be recycled:

95% Glass / 2% Ferrous Metal CRT tube monitor:
95% glass
2% ferrous metal (screws, etc)
98% Plastic / 2% Ferrous Metal Monitor case and base:
98% plastic
2% ferrous metal (screws, etc)
95% Copper Wire / 5% PVC Plastic Tape Degaussing wire:
95% copper wire
5% PVC plastic tape
75% Copper / 10% Ferrous Metal / 15% Plastic Monitor yoke:
75% copper
10% ferrous metal
15% plastic*
*(Could be recycled, but plastic particles are too small)
90% Fibreglass or Plastic / 5% Non-Ferrous Metal / 5% Other Recyclable Monitor circuit board:
90% fibreglass or plastic
5% non-ferrous metals
5% other recyclable materials
98% Fibreglass or Plastic / 5% Non-Ferrous Metal / 5% Other Recyclable Motherboards / Expansion cards:
90% fibreglass or plastic
5% non-ferrous metals
5% other recyclable materials
90% Steel / 10% ABS or Resin Plastic Computer case:
90% steel
10% ABS or resin plastic
(this varies from model to model)
95% Metal / 5% Circuit Board Floppy drives:
95% metal  (ferrous and non-ferrous)
5% circuit board
90% Plastic / 5% Circuit Board / 5% Cable Mouse:
90% plastic
5% circuit board
5% cable (can be recovered)
98% PVC Plastic / 5% Copper / 5% Steel Cables:
90% PVC plastic
5% Copper
5% Steel
50% Plastic Resin / 50% Ferrous Metal CD ROM case:
50% ferrous metal
50% plastic resin
99% Plastic Resin with PVC and Copper Cabling Keyboard:
99% plastic resin with PVC and copper cabling
80% Aluminium / 15% Steel / 5% Circuit Board Hard drives:
80% aluminium
15% steel
5% circuit board
95% Aluminium / 4% Polypropylene / 1% Mixed Metal Heat sink:
95% aluminium
4% polypropylene
1% mixed metal
65% Steel Case / 15% Printed Circuit Board Power supply unit:
85% steel case
15% printed circuit board
100% Ferrous Metal Various screws:
100% ferrous metal

Material use and re-use:

Financial value and rewards

Many of these elements can be recycled and re-used. Recycling needn’t mean completely dismantling, melting down and re-producing goods. Many of the items that are discarded from work places can be cleaned up and sold on.

Some users could reuse whole second-hand goods, such as a mouse, keyboards and monitors. Over 50% of businesses do not recycle WEEE. If more businesses were to recycle their e-waste, we could tap into an estimated £1.7bn each year.

Environmental benefits

The benefits of WEEE recycling contribute to a significant reduction in energy requirements. The energy cost of recycling e-waste for certain minerals is considerably less than the energy costs when mining for new materials.

For example, recycling aluminium takes 95% less energy when compared to making aluminium from new raw minerals. The result in annual savings compares to 19 million barrels of oil, or enough energy to supply electricity to 18 million households a year.

These energy savings from the recycling of e-waste also produce other indirect benefits such as less dependence on oil reserves, reduction of air pollution caused by energy production and also causes a decline in greenhouse emissions that contribute to global warming.

Smaller scale benefits

Keeping e-waste from landfills and disposing if it properly in this country has a huge environmental impact. Every tonne of waste that is recycled has enough power indirectly to power homes in Britain. Recycling that mobile phone in the proper manner could come full circle back to you and help you to power your own home!

The Circular Economy

The Circular Economy is a belief that we should change the way the world views our practises. In the living world, the cycle is perfect; materials flow, and one species’ waste is another’s food. Humans have unfortunately introduced a linear world where we take, we make and then we discard.

If we change the way that this cycle starts from the manufacture of the products, we can re-use valuable resources without eating into them, build capital and help the environment all at the same time.

Designing products that are ‘made to be made again’ will power the system with renewable energy and will not deplete our existing resources. With creativity and innovation we can build a restorative economy – known as the ‘re-thinking process’ (www.youtube.com).

Circular Economy Model

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