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Disposal of electronic goods


Rob Holdway, 2004
The life span of electrical goods is very short so the volume of goods is increasing all the time. Ways of disposing of Waste Electronic Electrical Equipment (WEEE) safely is a complex issue:

How are waste electrical goods disposed of?

1. Disassembly: All parts are dismantled and separated into different categories for recycling and reusing. Hazardous components are removed, such as batteries in mobile phones and other display units, which contain poisonous materials. Many of the products contain dangerous materials such as arsenic, lead, nickel, cadmium, bromine, mercury and PCBs.

2. Mechanical recycling: The process of granulating and shredding removes the recyclable materials such as ferrous metals or plastics.

3. Incineration. Metals can be recovered once the more combustible components are incinerated, but pollution remains a key worry when burning plastics.

4. Chemical recycling: precious metals such as gold, silver and copper can be removed from circuit boards using a chemical process.

However, an EU directive called for an end to the disposal of hazardous waste by July 2004. This has compounded the issue, as landfill sites will not take waste electronic goods and therefore looking at ways of reusing as many components as possible has become increasingly necessary and important.

(Adapted from Design+environment: A global guide to designing greener goods: Helen Lewis and John Gertsakis. Chapter 9. P164-184)

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