For cooling yesterday, for heating today – with some innovative recycling in between. As part of our WEEE dismantling processes, we also recover aluminium from fridges. Which can be used to make new products once it has been smelted down. For example to make elegant espresso makers.
Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) covers any device that has a plug or battery and that has come to the end of its useful life. Our centre at REMONDIS’ Lippe Plant has the dismantling systems needed to handle the majority of these appliances. The incoming materials are divided up into four categories: cooling & freezing appliances, domestic appliances, small electronic appliances and display equipment. There is a pragmatic reason for this. It’s certainly true that practically all of the different types of equipment have similar contents, such as ferrous and/or non-ferrous metal, glass, plastics and circuit boards. Having said this, however, the various appliances need to be dismantled in different ways so that their pollutants can be removed from their recyclable contents. These recyclable materials can then be recovered and returned to production cycles.
The dismantling centre at REMONDIS’ Lippe Plant uses manual dismantling and sorting processes as well as automated systems, such as shredders. The facility is permitted to handle 100,000 tonnes every year
Today’s electrical devices are not only able to do more, they are also getting smaller and lighter. Manufacturers are able to achieve this by installing composite materials and using new production methods – such as depositing ultrathin layers of material by evaporation. It is pretty obvious that this development is not making recycling easier.
This means two things for us at REMONDIS: first, we have to continuously invest in our facility at the Lippe Plant to modernise our dismantling processes. Second, we have to do everything in our power to convince politicians and businesses of the importance of the ecodesign directive. Thinking about the end of a product while it is still being designed is the first and most important step towards conserving natural resources and recycling.
Our expectations are high when it comes to dismantling WEEE – and that can best be seen by our output materials. Practically everything that goes through our dismantling systems can be processed for reuse. The number of components that can’t be recycled (e.g. capacitors, refrigerants and blowing agents) is very small and these are sent to hazardous waste incineration plants. They are, however, a fraction of the material delivered to our facility. Everything else can be recovered and processed. By the way, the range of output material is truly impressive. A total of 38 different subcategories are generated by our recycling processes. Including shredded non-ferrous metal such as copper and aluminium which is transported straight to smelting businesses. There’s no better way to close material life cycles.
Our facility has been divided up into four sections for the four different WEEE categories. The individual appliances are dismantled in a number of different stages which fit and work together perfectly. Simply click on the diagram to learn more.
Having invested over 17 million euros in our state-of-the-art facility, we are able to treat all categories of e-waste. Our advanced technology, smart systems and – last but by no means least – highly trained staff all ensure that we are able to deliver the highest level of WEEE recycling. What’s more, we continue to invest in new technologies and facilities so that it remains this way.
WEEE recycling is a particularly interesting subject because it is so closely connected to our everyday lives. Everyone has a washing machine, a television and many of the other devices and everyone has thrown some of these appliances away at some stage or other. And this is where the problems start. Many people still don’t realise that their old electrical equipment doesn’t belong in the residual waste bin – no matter how small the device may be. According to the German WEEE law [ElektroG], any device with a plug or a battery must be handed in to a shop or household recycling centre. The reason for this is clear: the only way to ensure these appliances are sent for professional treatment is for them to be collected within a controlled system. And there can be no doubt about the importance of recycling WEEE when you see just how many components can be recovered during the dismantling process. Many electrical appliances contain metals, such as iron, copper and aluminium. Recovering these materials not only conserves our planet’s natural resources – this process normally consumes far less energy than is needed to produce metal from primary raw materials.
For all those interested in the legal details: the ElektroG law as a PDF (German)
Strict European recycling directives are ineffective if people simply avoid them by exporting their e-waste elsewhere
The WEEE recycling activities at the Lippe Plant fulfil another really important task besides conserving resources and reducing energy consumption. To a certain extent, it also helps prevent the illegal export of old appliances which is wreaking havoc around the world. Huge rubbish tips containing mountains of e-waste can now be found in countries such as Nigeria and Ghana. These are not only causing serious environmental problems, they are also a massive health hazard for the local inhabitants. As is so often the case, it is the poorest of the poor who suffer the most. In their desperation, they work their way through these rubbish tips to salvage anything that might bring them a bit of money. The result: they end up breaking and burning the old TVs, computer screens and computers to get to their metal contents – no matter how small these may be. Highly toxic fumes are released which the people – normally children – then breathe in.
European lawmakers have tried to combat these dreadful conditions by banning exports of e-waste but this move has, for the most part, been unsuccessful. One reason for this lack of success is, without a doubt, because the problem has not received the attention it deserves – as is so often the case with the many hardships faced by third world countries. The fact of the matter is that all WEEE recycling businesses must face up to this problem and step up to the mark. Which is why we are currently working on a project to tackle this issue – to try and prevent the export of e-waste as well as to financially support the children working on these rubbish tips in Africa.
The de-gassing unit at our dismantling centre in REMONDIS’ Lippe Plant
Cooling & freezing appliances also contain refrigerants (CFCs, HFCs HCFCs and HCs) and these gases are just as bad for our climate as CO2. This means that they are a major contributor to the greenhouse effect and, as a result, climate change. It is, therefore, all the more important that these gases are eliminated during the recycling process. We have a state-of-the-art de-gassing unit at our dismantling centre in REMONDIS’ Lippe Plant. Its role is to remove all the blowing agents in the fridge’s insulation material – the so-called polyurethane. Using this unit is an environmentally friendly way to extract these dangerous greenhouse gases. At the same time, having removed all the pollutants, we are able to recover the polyurethane so it can be reused. By the way, the greenhouse gases are not the only hazardous substances that we eliminate at our dismantling centre. Any parts containing PCB are also carefully removed in line with stringent safety measures to prevent damage to human health and the environment and then sent to REMONDIS’ own hazardous waste incineration plants for disposal.
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