WEEEFORUM

Eye on WEEE - Special Edition - WEEELABEX Layman's report

May 2013

WEEELABEX: A rising tide raises all boats. 

In 2010, in the 27 member states of the European Union plus Norway and Switzerland, 11.5 million tons of electrical and electronic equipment were placed on the market. The quantity of WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) ‘arising’ in that same year is estimated to be approximately 7.9 million tons. Less than half of that quantity, 3.1 million tons, is officially collected, treated and reported to the authorities.

WEEE contains precious metals, such as gold and silver, as well as other metals, such as copper and aluminium. For centuries, the costs associated with recycling have been recovered through the sale of those materials extracted from end-of-life products. The trouble is that these materials are also often found next to critical raw materials, such as palladium and neodymium, which Europe’s economy requires for the production of electronics, as well as hazardous substances, for example mercury, brominated flame retardants, polychlorinated biphenyls, cadmium and volatile fluorocarbons. The latter materials require specialist handling and treatment in order to avoid environmental pollution and exposure to health and safety risks. WEEE containing those substances are often not properly de-polluted in Europe or shipped to poor countries under the guise of ‘export for re-use’.

Clearly, standards are required to regulate collection, sorting, handling, storage, transportation, treatment and disposal of WEEE, rules must be laid down to decide whether an undertaking’s processes deserve to be identified as ‘excellent’, and auditors must be trained to verify whether undertakings involved in collection and treatment meet those standards. The WEEELABEX project’s stated ambition was to protect the environment by improving WEEE collection and recycling practices in Europe.

A rising tide raises all boats. Find out in this 12-pages Layman's report how WEEELABEX is improving the WEEE industry's standards.