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Critical Raw Materials - WEEE Collection and CRM Recovery Trials Across Europe

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Each year millions of tonnes of WEEE is generated in the EU, but only 30% is reported as properly collected and recycled. The Critical Raw Materials Closed Loop 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.

Find out more: http://www.criticalrawmaterialrecovery.eu/home/casestudies/weee-collection-and-crm-recovery-trials-across-europe

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Critical Raw Materials - WEEE Collection and CRM Recovery Trials Across Europe

  1. 1. The LIFE 2014 CRM Recovery project has received funding from the LIFE Programme of the European Union. A SECOND LIFE FOR CRITICAL RAW MATERIALS (CRMS) WEEE COLLECTION AND CRM RECOVERY TRIALS ACROSS EUROPE 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 •Approaches such as incentivised return, take-back and collection events were investigated to increase WEEE collections. Stage 1: WEEE Collection Trials •Recovery trials were designed to evaluate processes to extract and recover CRM from WEEE. Stage 2: CRM Recovery Trials •The links between WEEE collection routes and CRM recovery, and the potential to increase CRM recovery across Europe, were evaluated. Stage 3: Evaluation •Policy and infrastructure recommendations were developed. Stage 4: Policy
  2. 2. The LIFE 2014 CRM Recovery project has received funding from the LIFE Programme of the European Union. TRIAL LEAD WEEE COLLECTION METHOD CRM RECOVERY METHOD LOCATION Axion Consulting • WEEE take-back in five Dixons Carphone stores in Greater Manchester. • WEEE take-back in partnership with a charity (British Heart Foundation) in Greater Manchester. • Incentivised WEEE take-back with John Lewis department stores in Leeds and York. • De-soldering of printed circuit boards (PCBs) to extract CRM- rich components. Components were optically sorted and analysed. • Target materials were: cobalt, antimony, tantalum, rare earths, platinum group metals, gold and silver. England Re-Tek • Employees brought domestic WEEE to business WEEE collection points. • WEEE bins located at recycling centres. • WEEE collections at university halls of residence. • WEEE collection hubs in primary schools. • Cobalt, gold and silver recovery by electrodeposition in an electrochemical flow system. • Target materials were: cobalt, antimony, tantalum, rare earths, platinum group metals, gold and silver. Scotland Ecodom • Consumer events held in public squares across Milan on Sundays. • School collection hub in Milan. • Extracting cobalt from Li-ion batteries. • Comparing outputs from CRM-rich and non-CRM-rich WEEE through existing precious metal treatment facility. • Target materials were: graphite, cobalt, platinum group metals, gold and silver. Italy Reycling- Borse • School collection hubs. • Monthly kerbside household collections. • Collection boxes for households and businesses. • (All activities located in Herford.) • Production of Nd-Fe-B from magnets. • Extraction of tantalum from capacitors. • Target materials were: tantalum and neodymium. Germany Asekol • Mobile collection units in areas of Prague that are unable to have permanent containers due to being in regions of historical beauty. • Increasing CRM concentration from WEEE reprocessing. • Target materials were: rare earths, platinum group metals, gold, silver, copper and aluminum. Czech Republic
  3. 3. The LIFE 2014 CRM Recovery project has received funding from the LIFE Programme of the European Union. 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-leaching1 shows impressive technological progress but is nevertheless still rather far away from economic viability. Industrial pilot scale projects and further research will be needed. 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. 1. Redesign and harmonise WEEE collection infrastructure 1 Bo-leaching uses (for example) bacteria / microorganisms to remove valuable metals (such as gold) from their ores.
  4. 4. The LIFE 2014 CRM Recovery project has received funding from the LIFE Programme of the European Union. By harmonising the collection infrastructure, confusion or incorrect disposal can be avoided, and consistent information and awareness raising activities can be undertaken, resulting in higher disposal and collection rates. 2. Increase awareness amongst citizens and businesses Consumers and businesses can
act as a driver, or barrier, for high quality CRM-rich WEEE reaching the recycling stream. Education and information sharing are paramount in ensuring policymakers, organisations and citizens are equipped with the knowledge of the potential supply risks and the associated impact. 3. Create incentives for collection and recycling organisations If industry is not sufficiently
supported or incentivised to trial new resource efficient business models that prioritise re-use or invest in CRM recovery facilities, these ventures may be seen as too high a risk. Likewise, incentivised trade-in, for example, is a proven method to encourage citizens to donate high-quality CRM-rich electrical items in a good condition. 4. Continue innovation and research on CRM recovery and foster international collaboration New material innovations in ever more complex electronic products happen in quick cycles, often out-pacing policy developments. Continuing support for research projects to keep up with technology and policy developments that specifically relate to CRMs would help to progress the recovery of CRMs from WEEE. 5. Introduce CRM-specific requirements into standards Generic or weight-based collection and recycling targets for WEEE result in nations prioritising heavy items such as large domestic appliances (LDAs), which typically do not contain high concentrations of CRMs. Integrating critical raw materials and their recovery strategies into policies will provide an incentive for organisations to prioritise them. TRIAL LEARNINGS • 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.
  5. 5. The LIFE 2014 CRM Recovery project has received funding from the LIFE Programme of the European Union. • 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. For more information, a series of short, accessible trial case studies are available on the CRM Recovery project website: http://www.criticalrawmaterialrecovery.eu/home/casestudies

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