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Waste Electronic Devices - Too Valuable for the Attic

By now, every child knows that waste electronic devices are not residual waste. But many are not aware that these devices not only contain hazardous substances, but also a number of valuable raw materials. Since the latter are nowadays getting scarce and therefore more expensive, it's the more important to collect electronic devices and recycle the materials. Materials which can be regained are for example iron, and non-ferrous metals, plastics and glass. Today, we have arrived at a point where it is almost impossible to do without this source of raw materials.

The easiest way is to bring old devices to one of the waste material collection centres (ASZ). Our staff is providing you with advice and support. Of course the devices are overtaken for free and a proper disposal is guaranteed.

Old mobile phones can even serve a good purpose. If you put them into the "Ö3 Wundertüte" (magic bag) the revenues are donated. This year, for the first time also the ASZ collect mobiles for the magic bag...

Still functioning electronic devices which are too good for disposal can also be brought to the ASZ and are put aside for sale in the 'ReVital shops. The devices are mended and sold for reuse.

Waste Electronic Devices Are Worth a Mint

 

Waste electronic devices can turn out to be gold mines. Not only because they contain many precious metals, but also because a proper collection and recycling is essential for a sustainable economy. Collection, reuse and recycling help to protect the environment and in the long run saves the consumer's money.

A ton of electronic "scrap" contains 30 times more gold than a ton of ore. With a total collected mass of 73 million kg last year, Austria again reaches a top position within the EU. International comparisons show that especially communal collection centres are of importance. In countries where municipalities are not obliged to take back waste electronic devices (e.g. Hungary, Spain, the Czech Republic), the collection rates are far below.

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Small Electronic Devices

Often small electronic devices like mixers, electric shavers or tooth brushes, radios, DVD players, USB sticks, drilling machines,... still land in residual waste bins because of their size. But nevertheless they contain hazardous substances as well as precious raw materials and therefore have to be collected separately.

Large Electronic Devices

"Large" is as per "Elektroaltgeräte-VO" (waste electronic devices regulation) every electronic device with an edge longer than 50 cm. In Upper Austria such devices are largely dismantled and the different fractions are subsequently supplied to reprocessing companies. The materials contained are mostly ferrous and non-ferrous metals (aluminium, copper) as well as plastics. On average the devices contain 65% ferrous metals, 9% non-ferrous metals and 26% plastics/other fractions. The metal fractions can almost entirely be reused as secondary raw materials. From the plastics/other fraction, today up to 30% pure plastics can be regained, the rest is incinerated.

Gas Discharge Lamps

The use of energy-saving lamps helps to protect our climate and saves money. Their durability and low energy use lead to annual savings up to EUR 100 per household.

There are three types of modern lamps:
  • halogen lamps: look similar to conventional bulbs and shine with equal brightness (energy savings 30%)
  • energy-saving lamps: are very durable an save energy up to 80%
  • LED lamps: (light emitting diodes) are the illuminant of the future. Based on semiconductor compounds, they are expensive but save energy up to 80% and are extremely durable.

Modern illuminants contain valuable raw materials which can be recycled. Therefore lamps and bulbs don't belong into the residual waste bin, but have to be collected separately in the ASZ.

In Austria gas discharged lamps are recycled via the "shredder route", for rod-shaped lamps alternatively the "Kapp-Trenn" (trim and separate) process is used. Both processes aim to separate the elementary compounds for a proper reprocessing/disposal.

Batteries

Correct disposal of batteries is important because...
...they contain many valuable raw materials like iron, nickel, manganese and zinc which can be regained.
...it ensures that toxic heavy metals like cadmium and lead don't get into our environment.

You can hand over your old batteries and accumulators for free in all the ASZ. The collection box you get there helps you to collect them at home. By the way, in Austria the final distributor is obliged to take batteries back.

The collected batteries are sorted and treated differently depending on the type (rechargeable, non-rechargeable, lead battery...). A part of them is incinerated and the iron is regained and from lead acid batteries lead can be regained...

Monitors and Screens

There are two kinds of monitors/screens: tube devices (old televisions or computer monitors) which contain cathode ray tubes and flat screens (LCD, LED, plasma) without tube.

Both can contain many hazardous substances and components:

  • coatings out of carcinogenic cadmium sulfide or yttrium compounds
  • getter plates, containing barium
  • LCD displays with azo dye
  • toxic illuminants like barium, yttrium, europium
  • flat screen tubes contain mercury
  • and of course batteries can be hazardous for health and environment

Obviously, monitors and screens contain many hazardous but also valuable elements which can partly be regained. Therefore the devices are collected, dismantled and recycled.

Refrigerators and Freezers

This category also comprises air-conditioning units and heat pumps. What all those devices have in common is that they contain climate-changing CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), which trigger the depletion of the ozone layer and are one cause for global warming. Since using CFCs has been prohibited in 1995, newer devices work with HCs (hydrocarbons). Those contribute to ozone pollution which can affect the respiratory tract. These are the reasons why all such devices should be brought to the ASZ in order to correctly dispose or recycle parts of them.

Removal of hazardous substances:
  • condensators, mercury switches, and glass plates are removed
  • the CFCs or HCs are let out of the refrigeration circuit and subsequently transformed to non-harmful substances
  • the compressor is removed (it mainly contains ferrous metals which are recycled)
  • the device gets into the shredder
  • a magnetic separator removes non-ferrous metals which are recycled
  • from the plastics, particularly polystyrene can be recycled

Further information: www.elektro-ade.at


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