The largest component of these appliances is white goods and that constitutes 43% of the total waste. (Electrical and electronic equipment recycling information sheet)
The next largest component is it equipment and that is 39% of the total. Most of the it equipment that is being discarded is computers which become obsolete vary rapidly. There are also a large number of TV sets which are thrown away every year and the annual figure is now around 2 million. As per the figures of 1998, there was a discard of 6 million tons of electrical equipment and along with this equipment there was a loss of 2.4 million tons of ferrous metal, 1.2 million tons of plastic; 652,000 tons of copper; 336,000 tons of aluminum and 336,000 tons of glass. (Electrical and electronic equipment recycling information sheet) the process of enforcement of the European Union rules has led to a situation where some novel efforts are also being tried out. There is a mobile phone recycler called Cellular Surplus in Norfolk who is making plastic rulers, pens and pencils from the excess plastic that is coming out from the phones that it is processing. This is important as the expected number of surplus phones in UK this year is expected to be 12 million units as their owner are all going in for new phones. (How do you make a mobile phone into a ruler? By recycling it!)
At the same time some of these items have toxic components like the rechargeable battery and LCD displays. One of the items which are not being disposed till now is the mobile phones, and they make up only 1 or 2% of the electronic waste. The reason for this is that people believe that they may have some value. Another dangerous item that is thrown away every year are 100 million lighting tubes and 100,000 tons of CRT glass, and at present they are shredded and thrown into landfill sites. There is now a compulsory collection by the unitary council, or district or borough. They are obliged to come and collect the item, though they may charge a fee. On the other side, the person may take it to the local civic amenity and give it for disposal without a charge. (Electrical and electronic equipment recycling information sheet)
At the same time there are some materials that may be considered to be worth getting, and the most important among them is ferrous metal. Even for a country like Ireland, the quantity is estimated to be between 16,000 and 33,000 tons in a year. There are also other metals like aluminum, copper and other metals which make up about 13% of the waste by weight. Glass is estimated to be 5.4% of the total weight. Plastics are another large component and they make up about 21% of the quantity by weight. The problem with plastics is that some are flame retarded and requires special methods for disposal. Certain countries like Ireland have no plants for incineration and this process is helpful in converting some of the hazardous items to less hazardous products if treated in those plants. (Waste from electrical and electronic equipment)
Some items which have a high amount of plastics are suited to treatment by incineration. At the same time the resulting slag from this process also has a high proportion of heavy metals and halogenated substances which are also dangerous. As a result, 72% of the waste in Ireland ends up in landfill sites along with the municipal wastes. In the entire European Union, two thirds of the waste is disposed by land-filling and there has not been much of an increase in the rates of recycling for the last few years. Now the aim is to treat landfills only as the last resort. Council decision 2003/34/EC has now established criteria and procedures for accepting waste at landfill sites. It also details the methods to be used through ID 5369. (Waste minimization)
There is now a problem of finding more space for landfill sites. In addition, there are many companies in the country which have made a business of recycling. The reason for making the manufacturers responsible for disposal of electronic items at the end of their useful lives was expected by WEEE to improve the recycling of products, but this is expected to have the opposite effect on printer cartridges. This will send all empty cartridges to land fills. The manufacturers will fit the inkjet cartridges with smart chips so that they would not be suitable for refilling and reuse. This means that 30% of the cartridges that are being re-used in UK would also be not used. (London faces Printer Cartridge Mountain Threat-Loophole may destroy Fledgling Recycling Industry) Some of them export the products to countries which have more advanced systems for recycling, and the others sell the item. The resale is most prevalent with it machines which are refurbished, cleaned up, repaired and then sold. The market is high for these items in Eastern Europe and Asia. The most problematic products for recyclers are the computer monitors and televisions as there is no market for these items. These are sent for processing to UK, Germany or USA. (Waste from electrical and electronic equipment)
Some items like household appliances like cookers, washing machines, refrigerators and freezers are processed with vehicles and light iron items. These are processed by shredders or large hammer mills. At the end of the exercise they produce a metal rich material and a mixed non-ferrous product consisting of dirt, concrete, rubber and plastics. Now legislation is coming up on these operators so that the processed material will meet the requirements of the new law. As mentioned the directives of the European Union came on 13th February 2003. In Ireland the recycling is being carried out by some companies and local authorities and even when a person wants to get the waste from his organization treated, he should contact these units. At the moment there is no law in Ireland to deal with waste from electrical and electronic equipment. At the same time, the Waste Management Act gives the necessary powers to the local authorities, and this also permits them to control waste streams and provide for 'producer responsibility' when needed. This will be the basis for Ireland to impose WEEE and RoHS directives into national law. (Waste from electrical and electronic equipment)
The other major problem is the illegal export that these electrical and electronic products are facing, and the First International Management Conference on Illegal Waste Shipments was held in Prague in March of the current year. There have not been any conferences of this type, but people are now worried about the rapid increase of illegal exports of electronic waste that is taking place from Europe to non-OECD countries in the Far East, Indian sub-continent, West Africa and China. There was a report prepared by Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling which estimated that about 23, 000 tons of electronic waste is being sent on ships from UK without clearances from the Environment Agency. The rules as they exist now say that it is not legal to send any hazardous electrical or electronic waste to a non-OECD country or developing country for disposal or recovery.
The only situation where an electronic item may be sent is for minor repairs, but even then the dispatch has to be approved by the environment agency. To make sure that they know about what is going on, the environment agency has set up dedicated enforcement teams at all ports in England and Wales to increase the random inspections that are carried out. This should provide proof of illegal activities. (European regulators set for talks on illegal waste exports) the matter of these illegal exports have also been seriously taken up by the British Environment Agency and they told companies involved in the export of electronic waste to Pakistan, India and China that they are aware of the rules and have to follow them to avoid punishment. This came as soon as the Environmental Agency decided to step up it network for checking of illegal exports. (UK Agency Warns E-Scrap Exporters)
The positions in the countries of Eastern Europe are much behind the Western part in these laws. The situation in Hungary is that it has a product fee system, and was one of the first countries to adopt a recycling for packages. Poland is likely to enact two broad laws that will cover the taking back of packaging on batteries, lamps, tires and some other appliances. It already has a law on packaging in plastic. (East Europe Country Pages) Another country in Eastern Europe which has been a pioneer in actions regarding environment has been Greece. They have been the leaders for the Mediterranean Component of the European Union Water Initiative or MEDEUWI from 2002 onwards.
An important action for the ministry for Environment called YPEHODE has been to update national planning…