The global volume of WEEE is forecast to exceed 50 million tons by the year 2020
Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) is currently considered to be one of the fastest growing waste streams worldwide, growing at three to five percent per year, especially in the member countries of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), where markets are saturated with huge quantities of electrical and electronic goods.
The volume of WEEE generated globally may exceed 50 million tons annually by 2020. The e-scrap generated worldwide amounted to around 44.7 million tons in 2016. That is the equivalent of approx. 6 kilograms of WEEE per year for every man, woman and child on earth. By 2021, experts anticipate that the global annual WEEE stream will grow by 3 to 4 percent, taking the global volume to 52.2 million tons and the per capita figure to nearly 7 kilograms.
At global level, small appliances account for the largest category of WEEE at 16.8 million tons, followed by large appliances (9.1 million tons), cooling and freezing equipment (7.6 million tons), as well as TV screens and computer monitors (6.6 million tons). Smaller IT equipment and lamps make up the remainder.
As the growth in demand is highest for large and small equipment, followed by fridges and freezers, the highest volume growth in WEEE is expected in these categories in the coming years.
Only 20 percent of scrapped appliances are recycled properly
Despite the high economic value of the secondary raw materials in the WEEE, such as aluminum, copper, and iron, only 20 percent of the WEEE generated globally is recycled properly. Especially components that contain hazardous substances, such as batteries, cooling agents or capacitors, must remain intact in order to be disposed of without any negative impact on the environment. The fate of the remaining 80 percent of the WEEE is largely unknown, however it is very likely that it is landfilled or recycled under sub-standard conditions. These disposal methods pose a great risk to human health and the environment because they could ultimately result in release of the toxic substances in the WEEE.
The challenges and opportunities relating to WEEE provide a basis for the recycling industry and policy-makers to plan effective actions to capture the e-scrap potential and strengthen a sustainable economy. International technology group ANDRITZ is contributing substantially to the development of innovative recycling technologies for material separation and e-scrap processing.
Within the past few years, technical inventions like the Universal Cross-Flow Shredder QZ with its innovative chain technology have made a large impact on safe recycling of the potentially hazardous materials found in electronic equipment. The QZ accepts a wide range of input materials, such as refrigerators, white goods, and electrical household appliances, and gently breaks down different composite materials using rotating chains so that the individual fractions (iron, plastics, printed circuit boards, cables, etc.) can be easily separated from another and properly recycled.