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Gewählte Publikation:

Unger, N; Beigl, P; Hoggerl, G; Salhofer, S.
(2017): The greenhouse gas benefit of recycling waste electrical and electronic equipment above the legal minimum requirement: An Austrian LCA case study
J CLEAN PROD. 2017; 164: 1635-1644. FullText FullText_BOKU

The increase in recycling targets is seen as an important contribution towards a circular economy as envisioned by the European Union. Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) is highly complex and heterogeneous and one of the fastest growing waste streams in the EU. Its recycling typically consists of pre-treatment, recovery of secondary resources (materials and energy), and disposal. Legal recycling targets, stated by the European Commission, are exceeded by leading pre-treatment operators driven by economic needs. While recycling has been shown in the past to have greenhouse gas benefits, no study could be found that compares WEEE recycling at two different recycling rates using industry data. Therefore, this study investigates: (1) How much secondary material is recovered from WEEE at a certain recycling rate and (2) what is the associated greenhouse gas impact of the WEEE end-of-life system? The results of two end-of-life systems operating at different recycling rates are compared and analysed. A leading Austrian pre-treatment facility provided data and know-how for this case study. One system describes the current practice at the pre-treatment facility (recycling rate: 80.5%) and the other system operates at the same facility close to the legally required minimum target set by the European WEEE directive (62.5% for this specific input material). In terms of secondary material recovery, the study shows that a recycling rate of 80.5% enables recovery of just above halve of the input material, while for recycling close to the legal target the amount of recovered material is around 45%. The differences are due to less recycling of plastics, ferrous materials and copper. Regarding the greenhouse gas impact, recycling at a rate of 80.5%, the Austrian pre-treatment site proves to avoid at least 215 kg of CO2 equivalents per ton WEEE input compared to recycling WEEE at the same facility close to the legal minimum recycling target. In the authorsxxx view a mandatory recycling rate above 80% would be difficult to fulfil as, according to the pre-treatment facility operator, additional costs of better separation would outweigh any additional revenues from secondary material. (C) 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Autor/innen der BOKU Wien:
Beigl Peter
Salhofer Stefan Petrus
Unger Nicole
BOKU Gendermonitor:

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