We scarcely can imagine life today without electrical appliances. We use them daily – at work, at home and for fun. These devices become more advanced by the day and their prices fall continuously. They have become accessible to everyone. But all of this raises a serious issue: what to do with the devices once we stop using them?
Every year, the inhabitants of the European Union produce 66 million tonnes of e-waste. This volume continues to rise by 3% to 5% per year, which rate is almost three times faster than for the volume of waste overall. Worn-out and obsolete electrical appliances are used to acquire ferrous, non-ferrous and precious metals, glass, plastic and other materials.
The more electrical and electronic equipment finding its way into the recycling process, the less natural resources are necessary to produce new such devices.
Recycling means reuse, recirculation. Reusing waste saves natural resources and prevents burdening the environment with harmful substances. Secondary resources acquired from recycling are less costly than are those which are newly extracted. For example, an average mobile phone weighing 100 grams contains 15 g of copper, 0.4 grams of precious metals (gold, silver, platinum) and 30 grams of plastic. In addition to recycling, e-waste also can be used for producing electricity.
The e-waste reuse rate is precisely specified in the Waste Act. By law, it is necessary to ensure recycling of 50–80% of each electrical appliance. How much material from recycled appliances is reused depends upon the type of individual appliance.