Recycling Plastics From Electronic Waste

The European Commission estimates e-waste to be one of the fastest growing waste streams in the EU, and expects it to grow to more than 12 million tonnes by the end of 2020. Waste electrical and electronic equipment is a complex mixture of materials and components. This type of waste has hazardous content, and if not effectively managed, can be detrimental to the environmental and lead to health problems. We also note, the production of modern electronics requires the use of a variety of scarce and expensive resources.

As we have increased usage it seems plastics are a key element in making many different components of electronic and electrical products, including phones, computers, laptops, tablets, TVs, screens, toys, vacuum cleaners, hairdryers, and larger household appliances. Plastic are a concern as there any may differ types used which makes easy recycling difficult.

Plastic Coated Electronic Cables

There is a lot of time, energy, effort and money invested to improve the collection and recycling of plastics found in electronic waste (e-waste) but research by PloyCE suggest the plastics value chain is still too fragmented, and recycled plastics are still perceived as unattractive to the end-user.

A New Project

PolyCE is a project funded by the European Commission and consists of 20 partner organisations aiming to address the problem plastic waste relate to electronic equipment during the next 4 years. The idea is to greatly reduce the use of virgin plastics and enhancing the use of recycled plastics in new electronics of all types.

A potential roadblock is the classifying of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) plastics as “hazardous waste” This step risks making EU recycling of WEEE plastics impossible.

Plastics Value Chain – Click above to access full size diagram

The POLYCE Newsletter from March 2020 states, most of WEEE plastics are high value tech plastics and technology exists in the EU to produce REACH and RoHS compliant Post-Consumer Recycled plastics and ensure safe plastic recycling. A small proportion of these WEEE plastics is compounded with flame retardant substances. Only a limited number of these Flame Retardants are restricted as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

Opportunity

Recycling plastic of al types is a great opportunity to improve environmental wellbeing. Envirotec magazine says recycling electronic related plastic would reduce pressure on waste systems in Europe where approx 31% of plastic waste still enters landfills while 39% is incinerated. Another benefit comes with very tonne of plastic recycled helps avoid up to 3 tonnes of CO2 emissions created making new plastic.

Consumer of the Products?

A recent consumer survey carried out by the PolyCE project found that half of respondents did not know if they had ever bought a tech product that included recycled plastic. Of the 25% who said yes to the question, 86% noticed no difference in quality, appearance, or performance of the product they purchased.

Plastic Backs on Monitors and TVs

While there is a growing awareness amongst people around the globe regarding the threats posed by everyday plastic waste, very little attention is given to the challenges of the waste plastic found in electronic devices used daily.

Do you know if you have purchased a phone, tablet or any electronic item manufactured with recycled plastic. Maybe next time you can check and request this option!

Moving Forward

At present plastics are needed for manufacturing the many different components of electronic and electrical products, experts in the PolyCE network said products can be designed in ways that make material recovery of plastic components easier. This will take some time to achieve so during that time please ensure your old electronic items are recycled using a permitted recycler. The current system might not be perfect, but it will develop and change!

For more information on this electronic plastic recycling project click here or visit the BBC website.

About Recycle IT

Recycle IT, is an award-winning social enterprise offering electrical, electronic and metal recycling services through drop off and collection. Services are provided in partnership with WEEE Ireland and South Dublin County Council.

Recycle IT are supported by the Department of Rural and Community Development, Pobal and Dormant Accounts and authorised by the National Waste Collection Permit Office and the local authorities across in Leinster.

For more information on Recycle IT please call 01 4578321, email info@recycleit.ie or visit our website www.recycleit.ie

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