WEEE and Recycling processes for the recovery of critical raw materials: Challenges and opportunities

Raimund Sicking, Rhein Waal University of Applied Science, Kleve, Germany
Nicolas Sarmiento Sierra, Rhein Waal University of Applied Science, Kleve, Germany

In 2009, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) generated was estimated to be around 20 to 25 Million Tonnes per year [1]. By 2014, a more recent figure by Cuchiella et al. [2] showed a global WEEE production rate of about 30 to 50 Mt based on a suggested annual growth rate of 3% to 5%. Other literature, as well as the statistical study developed in Bonn by the United Nations University via the Global E‐Waste Monitor Program [3], estimated numbers will keep on rising. While at the same time, markets will continue its expansion, technology will substantially change and the replacement of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) will keep accelerating [4]. Among other concerns, the complexity of WEEE material composition, costs of collecting and recycling and continuous supply of raw resources have resulted in initiatives to counteract these trends. By analysing the correspondent recycling processes use to recover Critical Raw Materials (CRM) from electronic scrap, a series of challenges and opportunities where identified. Thus, the aim of this paper consists on depicting an approach about WEEE recycling, in which EEE is analysed from a general point of view in order to foresee the dynamics of material processing (while recycling) and the possibilities to conceive WEEE as secondary source of raw materials. In principle, the illustrated recycling process considers the recovery of CRM as they are linked to several industries and represent a significant financial and environmental interest for most modern societies. The key motivation for developing this project was the necessity to understand the “lifecycle” of an electronic product and the possibilities to proceed to an experimental phase supported by this research conclusions. Besides, to convey better practices and stimulate R&D of recycling methodologies, to contribute to the aim of achieving resource efficiency and ensure through recycling sustainable material supply [5].

[1] Robinson (2009) Science of the Total Environment 408: 9.
[2] Cucchiella et al. (2014) Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 51: 10.
[3] Baldé et al. (2014) The Global E-waste Monitor 2014 Quantities, fows and resources. Bonn,Germany, United Nations University.
[4] European Parliament, EU Council. (2012) Directiva 2012/19/UE del Parlamento Europeo
[5] European Comission. (2015) Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials

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