Each year millions of tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) are generated in the EU. The Critical Raw Materials Closed Loop Recovery (CRM Recovery) project aims to increase the recovery of target CRMs by 5% by 2020 and by 20% by 2030.
With this in mind, the project invested in trials exploring novel ways of boosting the collection and recovery of CRMs from household WEEE. Trials were held across the UK, Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic.
Methodology – The Trial Process
Stages 1 and 2 – Collection and Recovery Trials
Stage 3 – Evaluation
Highlights from the project monitoring and evaluation work include:
- Around 43 tonnes of unwanted WEEE items were collected through the 14 collection trials.
- The mantra of the collection trials was ‘collect more and collect better’. A fundamental aspect of this was to reduce the risk of damage, thereby increasing the chances of products having a second life. Overall, compared to the project baseline, a higher percentage of discarded WEEE items were re-used and re-sold via various channels (for example through charities, such as the British Heart Foundation in the UK) following these trials, keeping the items from being disposed of via general rubbish bin collections. The increased proportion of re-usable WEEE products collected during the different trials did vary significantly, from 0% to 126%, depending upon each trial’s link to a suitable re-use channel.
- From an economic point of view, it was found that WEEE collection should be linked to other (existing) waste collection schemes (textiles for example) to build on existing logistical arrangements and consumer awareness.
- Bio-leaching shows impressive technological progress but is nevertheless still rather far away from economic viability. Industrial pilot scale projects and further research will be needed.
 Bo-leaching uses (for example) bacteria / microorganisms to remove valuable metals (such as gold) from their ores.
Stage 4 – Policy Recommendations
On International WEEE Day in October 2018, the project launched five key policy recommendations, which built on learnings from the project trials, along with other activities and input from the project’s expert stakeholder group. The recommendations, which can be seen below, aim to increase the collection and recovery of CRMs from WEEE.
- Knowledge of what to do is important. Having more information available about where to take WEEE encourages re-use and recycling.
- Convenience is a factor. Using high street and charity retailers in particular was found to be very convenient way to dispose of WEEE.
- Altruism is also a factor. Within the collection trials, around 1,000 participant surveys were completed. Most consumer respondents agreed that disposing of their WEEE through take-back schemes was good for the environment.
- Trust plays an important part in increasing WEEE collections. Consumers reportedly place more trust in high street retailer brands than charities to handle their data securely.
- Personal connection matters and increases the economic viability of collections. There is a link between the collection of high quality / high value WEEE products and human interaction at collection points. Citizens are more likely to donate better-quality items if they can drop them at a collection point where they have personal interaction with an operative. The relationship helps to build trust, makes it more enjoyable, and encourages people to recycle by recognising their efforts to do the right thing.
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