Technology provides the key to WEEE

The problems posed by the dismantling and recycling of electric and electronic equipment, under the WEEE Directive, are at least as complex as demanufacturing fridges where the regulation of ozone depleting substances (ODS) comes into play. LAWE reviews recent developments in the preparations by industry, recyclers and local government to respond to the requirements of the WEEE Directive

The focus on the recycling of electrical and electronic waste is moving on from dealing with the notorious “fridge mountain”, to the wider range of equipment coming within the scope of the EC WEEE Directive. This covers a wide range of professionally used electrical and electronic equipment, such as information technology (IT) and telecommunications equipment.

The directive will require “best available recovery and recycling techniques” which ICER (Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling) believes puts its Accreditation Schemes, which promote best practice and are tailored to the electronics recycling and refurbishing industry, in the spotlight.

ICER has also addressed the issue under WEEE of individual versus collective producer responsibility – whether producers will have to pay for dealing with their own-brand products at end-of-life or take a share of the total costs of the waste stream.

On the research front, Glass Technology Services (GTS), the technical arm of British Glass, together with Precious Metals Industries carried out research for ICER which showed that removing lead from cathode ray tubes (CRT glass) may help deal with the growing stockpile of waste TVs and computer monitors, of which an estimated 100,000 tonnes are currently being sent to landfill each year in the UK.

The TV tube is made up of a number of components, all with varying levels of lead content. The screen itself contains no lead but is fused to the rest of the assembly with a high lead solder glass. The funnel also contains an appreciable level of lead. The average lead oxide content of CRT glass is 5-6%.

The average CRT represents around 55% of glass by weight. This means that a significant volume of material is currently escaping the recycling net. Removing the lead from CRT glass also leaves a useable silicate. GTS reports that CRT was defined as toxic on 16 July 2002 with a decision being made that commercial computer monitors and household televisions can now only be disposed of in hazardous landfill sites.

The report on the research project, funded under the DTI Recycling Programme, was published at the end of September. As a result of the project. ICER and GTS have won significant funding from WRAP to investigate the options which exist for the recycling and reclamation of glass.

Industry and local authorities

Responses from industry to the forthcoming WEEE regime include the launch by Eletroversal Ltd, a provider of repair, refurbishment, inventory management and logistics solutions to the electrical and electronics industry, of two new sister companies designed to support manufacturers responding to the WEEE Directive. The two new companies, Weee Recycle Ltd and Weee SellSpares Ltd, will demonstrate the commercial benefits of a greener approach as well as the more obvious environmental benefits.

Weee Recycle’s plans include providing information and guidance to customers on the development of the legislation and its implications as well as offering a Total Weee Solution. Electroversal Ltd and the two new companies will be managed under the Calyx Group.

P&O Closed Loop Logistics is offering a “sustainable solution that addresses both ODS and WEEE legislation” and which closes the recycling loop. The company is drawing upon over 25 years’ experience in supplying services associated with ODS legislation operational requirements to provide a fridge and freezer demanufacturing service. In addition to licensed logistics, trained personnel, storage facilities, processing equipment and technical support, the company says that its experience in operating contracts involving integrated process management equips it to dispose of WEEE in a safe, reliable and cost-effective manner.

The flagship of P&O Closed Loop Logistics’ capability in this field is the new ODS and WEEE demanufacturing and recycling plant near Stockton-on-Tees which represents an investment of £3 million. Equipped to process up to 80 ODS units per hour, the plant, using MeWa technology, it can also accommodate all end-of-life electrical appliances.

In the local authority sector, Peterborough City Council has been awarded £266,000 from the £140 million Defra Waste Minimisation and Recycling Fund to establish a WEEE reprocessing facility. This will provide a collection service for old electrical items from domestic properties and retail stores. The appliances will either be repaired and sold into the re-use market or disassembled for reprocessing and remanufacture into new products.

The WEEE facility will be an important anchor for the growth of Peterborough’s waste sector and the environment cluster of which it is a part. Phil Sheppard, Manager of the Encluster initiative, which assisted the city council with the bid, said: “This project has significant economic, environmental and social gains and is a great boost for the environmental industries of Greater Peterborough. It will also be a focus to attract materials reprocessing companies into the area.”

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