Challenge of EU electroscrap rules assessed

UK association reviews waste arisings, recycling, sees problems ahead for plastics, glass

Nearly 1m tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment was discarded in the UK in 1998, about half of which went to recyclers, according to a study by the British Industry Council for Electronic and Electrical Equipment Recycling (ICER). The report provides an early national assessment of the likely challenges for industry of the European Commission's forthcoming proposal for an EU electroscrap directive.

Based on the latest Commission outline of its plans for an EU directive (ENDS Daily 12 August 1999), ICER's study tracks 11 categories of equipment likely to be targeted, covering both domestic and commercial waste. Key challenges identified include raising recycling rates of glass, much of which comes from TV cathode ray tubes, which contain heavy metals, and of plastics.

Of 915,000 tonnes of electroscrap generated, 82% came from just two categories: large household appliances (43%) and IT equipment (39%). About 8% was radio, TV and audio equipment, 3% small household appliances and 3% electrical and electronic tools. Some 1% was gas discharge lamps and a further three categories - toys, monitoring equipment and telecommunications - each contributed under 1%.

Across all product categories, 47% of the waste was ferrous metals, 22% plastics, 6% glass and 4% non-ferrous metals. The plastics fraction included seven main polymers, sometimes individually and sometimes as composites.

Though the study reports 50% of electroscrap going to recyclers, the proportion actually recycled would be considerably lower. In part, this is because, as ICER admits, estimated arisings have probably been underestimated. In addition, not all waste entering recycling processes was actually recycled. For example, 25% of washing machines going to scrap fragmentisers and 38% of refrigerators, were classified as "dirt".

Follow Up:
ICER, tel: +44 20 77 29 47 66. The study is entitled: "UK Status Report on Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment".

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