How is WEEE recycled?

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1 How is WEEE recycled? Large Domestic Appliances Small Domestic Appliances Cooling Appliances Display Equipment Gas Discharge Lamps The amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) being produced is expected to increase significantly in the next 10 years. Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) contains a complex mixture of materials. Recycling reduces the environmental problems of disposal, by stripping out hazardous items and re-using as many materials as possible. This reduces raw material consumption and provides a material stream for domestic recyclers. The EU WEEE Directive places an obligation on EEE producers to pay for collection and treatment of products when they become waste. Read on for a description of the main WEEE categories and the recycling processes involved. March 2012

2 LDA LARGE DOMESTIC APPLIANCES This category includes appliances such as washing machines, cookers, dishwashers and tumble dryers. The first stage of recycling is decontamination: cables and other electrical components are removed; ballasts, plastics, iron compounds and other s are separated and recovered. These materials are then sent for further processing and recovery. LDA RECYCLING TECHNIQUES Pre-shredding decontamination Shredding Magnetic belt Eddy currents Plastic and residues

3 SDA SMALL DOMESTIC APPLIANCES SDA includes many products such as computer keyboards, toasters, electrical toys, vacuum cleaners, power tools and irons. This is the most complicated WEEE stream as many possible materials can be recovered: wood,, plastic, glass and cardboard. SDAs are shredded and plastics are separated from s. Initial de-contamination may include removal of ink toners, cartridges, batteries and cables. SDA RECYCLING PROCESS Manual pre-treatment Individual components Component Mechanical Coarse ferrous Coarse non-ferrous Fine materials Batteries Capacitors Printed circuit boards Picking station Electrical motors Large items Other hazardous components Individual components Granulation Plastic

4 COLD - REFRIGERATORS & FREEZERS Products include fridges, freezers and any appliances with refrigerating devices such as water coolers. Some products contain refrigerant gases Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) which are now banned. These gases are captured and treated in ODS recovery plants. Cold appliance de-pollution entails many processes: compressors are decontaminated to recover ODS and oils; insulating foam is treated to recover ODS; s are salvaged and sold on; and plastics may be re-used for new products. Finally, oils and ODS are destroyed in a specialised treatment process. FRIDGE RECYCLING PROCESS Gas Phase 1 Decontamination Phase 2 Shredding Magnetic Gas Oil Foam decontamination Electro magnetic Gas Foam Plastic

5 DISPLAY Display equipment includes cathode ray tubes (found in old style TV sets and computer monitors), flat screen TVs and computer monitors, such as plasma and liquid crystal display (LCD). Cathode ray tubes (CRT) contain hazardous phosphor powder and leaded glass. The CRT tube is removed by hand, then the circuit boards, wires and plastics are removed and the materials are used to make other products. CRT TVs contain valuable copper and rare s. Panel and funnel glass from the cathode ray tubes are separated. The coating on the funnel glass is removed and the glass is cleaned ready for new CRT manufacture. Demand for CRT televisions is falling as the popularity of LCD and flat-screen equipment grows. The flat-screen display market is growing rapidly. LCD or plasma may be used for flat screen TVs, computer monitors, laptops and mobile phones. Most LCD TVs use mercury lamps to light the screen. To remove the lamps, the entire TV must be disassembled before sending the LCD screen section for special processing. Research is now being carried out to develop more effective, automated solutions. Once the lamps are removed, the rest of the device may then be shredded. DISPLAY RECYCLING PROCESS Hand dismantling Monitor body & electronics to WEEE line Cathode ray tubes Crushing & removal Metals Sieving / Cleaning Waste and fine materials Grinding Magnet and detector Metal recycling Glass Unleaded glass Leaded glass Homogenising Bulk, big bag & silo storage Homogenising Bulk, big bag & silo storage Sampling & analysis Diagram courtesy of Sims Group UK Ltd

6 GAS DISCHARGE LAMPS (GDL) - LIGHTS This category includes fluorescent tubes and low energy light bulbs, also known as compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). Old-style filament light bulbs and halogen lights are not categorised as WEEE. The lamps are crushed, then may be washed or treated in dust tight or pressurised containers. The hazardous mercury and phosphor are removed by specialised machines. The remaining material is sorted into glass, s and plastics. The phosphor powder may be re-used to make new lamps. When purified to the right level, the mercury collected can also be used to make new lamps or in other industrial processes. The crushed glass can be used for furnace linings or, if pure enough, to make new lamps. The aluminium end caps are sent for smelting and other s are recycled. The following diagrams show the end cut method for treating fluorescent tubes and the shredder method for processing different shapes and sizes of waste lamps. Other methods include the broken glass washing method for handling large volumes (without preliminary sorting) and product-specific stripping for pre-treating highintensity discharge (HID) and CFL lamps. END CUT METHOD SHREDDER METHOD Shred lamps Broken glass Metal Rare earth Recycling Spent lamp Remove lamp ends Remove phosphor Phosphor Mercury recovery Sift fraction > 8mm Metal Blow out plastics Broken glass Recycling Sift fraction Sift fraction in 2 stages Glass dust and phosphor Mercury recovery Diagrams courtesy of Recolight Ltd ABOUT ERP ERP was created in 2002 as the first ever pan-european compliance scheme to effectively implement the European Union s WEEE Directive. ERP offers compliance in 12 countries and support in 20 additional countries through the Europe Plus package. ERP s mission is to ensure cost-effective implementation of the WEEE and Batteries Directives, for the benefit of producer members, consumers, the environment and society. FOR MORE INFORMATION Call +44 (0)

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