Study on WEEE: Recycling electronic waste worth up to €3.7b for Europe by 2020

Elektroschrott (Foto: O. Kürth)

Sheffield, UK – Recycling waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) more effectively could be worth up to 3.7 billion euros to the European market as well as reducing environmental pollution, an award winning research paper has found. According to the study, WEEE is currently considered to be one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world, with an estimated growth rate between three and five per cent each year.

Globally, about 30–50 million tons of WEEEs are disposed each year, says the paper entitled ‘Recycling of WEEEs: an economic assessment of present and future e-waste streams’. It defined the potential revenues coming from the recovery of valuable materials in electronic waste, such as gold and platinum, in 14 electronic items including notebooks, monitors, smartphones, hard drives and tablets using current and future disposed quantities in Europe. The study found that recycling electronic waste was equal to 2.15 billion euros in overall potential revenue to the European market in 2014 and could rise to 3.67 billion euros by 2020. As well as providing a significant source of revenue, more effective recovery of materials could benefit the environment by reducing manufacturers’ reliance on unprocessed resources.

As the study points out, the recycling market can be considered as one of the key industries able to close the materials loop. However, there is a large proportion of precious and special metals present in WEEEs that is still lost in the recycling process. The production of modern Electric and Electronic Equipments (EEE) requires the use of scarce and expensive resources and so the recovery of these materials represent a significant economic opportunity.

Professor Lenny Koh from the Sheffield University Management School and a world leading expert on low carbon supply chains commented: “We have been working on the collaborative research for several years with the University of L’Aquila and Politecnico di Milano. This builds from our prior research on turning waste into resource, resource efficiency and circular economy.

“In particular, this research has strong relevance to addressing global issues of materials availability and security, reducing reliance on unused non-renewable materials, especially precious, critical and rare earth materials in manufacturing for sustainability and for consideration for substitution.”

The paper on „Recycling of WEEEs“ can be found under

Original Source: Recycling of WEEEs: An economic assessment of present and future e-waste streams, by Federica Cucchiella, Idiano D’Adamo, S.C. Lenny Koh, Paolo Rosa, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Volume 51, November 2015, Pages 263–272

Source: University of Sheffield