E-waste Recycling and Valuable Resources Recovery in Europe
2016 International Symposium on Recycling of Valuable Resources (ReVaR 2016)
Electronic waste (e-waste) is a popular, informal name for electronic products nearing the end of their useful life. Nowadays, due to the rapid development of technologies, marketing and compatibility issues, the lifespan of many electronic goods has been substantially shortened. For example, the average lifespan of a new computer was 4.5 years in 1992, decreasing to 2 years in 2005, with further decreases over time (Widmer, 2005). This has resulted in significantly greater volumes of computers, either being disposed of or exported to developing countries. While it is difficult to quantify the volume of e-waste generated globally, according to StEP (Solving the E-Waste Problem) reports, about 48.9 million tons of e-waste (StEP, 2012) were produced in 2012, with estimates for 2017 increasing to 64.5 million tons. This emphasizes the need for proper management and decisions to control the different economic, social and environmental impacts. During the past decade, many studies on e-waste collection, treatment, recycling and management issues have been conducted (Terazono et al. 2006; Kahhat et al., 2008; Williams et al., 2008; Brett 2009; Kim et al., 2009; Jang 2010; Kim et al, 2013; Duan et al. 2014, Lee et al., 2010, Noon et al., 2011). E-waste management has become a critical issue because of the variety of toxic substances, which can contaminate the environment and threaten human health if disposal protocols are not meticulously enacted. For example, electronic products typically contain etchants (ammonia, nitrous oxide, chlorine, hydrogen chloride etc.), acid (phosphoric, hydrofluoric, nitric, sulfuric, hydrochloric, ammonia etc.) and photolithographic products for transferring a printed image to paper path (hydrogen peroxide, acetone, sodium hydroxide etc.), all having adverse effects on human health (Terazono, 2006; Kahhat et al., 2008). In addition, they are also costly to the environment. For instance, manufacturing an electronic chip weighing 40 mg requires 30 liters of pure water, approximately 750,000 times its mass, and burns the equivalent of 800 times of its weight in oil (Terazono, 2006). Furthermore, half of the world’s production of the precious metals gallium (350,000 dollars per tonne) and indium (Kim et al, 2015; Buchert et al, 2009), along with more than two thirds of global tantalum resources, are used for information and communication technology (ICT). On the other hand, these products contain valuable materials such as copper, zinc, gold, aluminum, platinum and others that can be recovered for future use (Groupe EcoInfo, 2012). In this presentation, mostly, E-waste recycling and management as well as valuable resources recovery (e.g., European projects, resource flows and recovery technologies) in Europe will be presented and discussed.