Recovering e-waste treasures should be a law in Europe according to the latest report published by the CEWASTE resilient economy project. The document indicates that this has become a matter of national security and that only under a legal framework can the competitiveness of the industrial sector be guaranteed and maintain a lifestyle that only depends on this region.
Circuit boards, drive magnets, electric vehicle magnets, batteries, and fluorescent lamps are items that contain raw materials such as gold, silver, and cobalt that can be recycled and effectively reused. This process would protect consumer electronics and the defense industry, becoming a challenge for governments. Although these materials are vulnerable to geological upheavals, the Old Continent continues to depend on international supply with recycling rates almost at 0.
“Recycling is one of the oldest jobs in the world. We have done it for centuries,” says Pascal Leroy, author of the report and member of the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). “What makes this era different than before is that we need critical raw materials to make products that support our high-tech lifestyle,” says Leroy.
Fragile supply chain
The elements needed for wind turbines and electric cars play a key role in meeting climate goals and competitiveness in manufacturing processes. However, Europe’s supply chain has become very fragile. “The defense industry is too exposed, ranging from computer systems to drones that depend on Chinese supplies,” says Leroy.
The CEWASTE report, funded by the European Union, highlights that various categories of electronic waste have sufficient amounts of raw material to be recovered. Printed circuit boards, vehicle batteries, neodymium magnets, hard disk boron, scooter motors, and cathode-ray tubes are some of those highly reusable items. But, the volatile prices of raw materials make recycling considered very expensive by companies.
The report calls for legal requirements to recycle and reuse citrus raw materials, economic incentives to sustain the industry, and better controls on shipments of electronic scrap outside the EU. “Nobody is going to do this voluntarily because it costs a lot of money,” Leroy complains.
The United Nations Organization ensures that in 2019 more than 500 million tons of electronic waste will be disposed of, most of it ending up in landfills. With only 17% recycled products, the UN estimates that materials worth more than $ 50 trillion are lost each year. This amount is not enough since more must be extracted for the manufacture of products, generating environmental and human risks.
Federico Magalini, another of the authors of the report and a member of the sustainable consulting firm Sofies, estimates that by 2025 European printed circuit boards may contain 41 tons of silver and 10 tons of gold. “These quantities are those used to manufacture new items, but even by recycling electronic products, several of these elements cannot be recovered (…) What is lost today is also being lost for tomorrow,” said Magalini.
At eSmart Recycling, we take the present to build a new future. Our recycling process is particularly respectful of the environment and our reuse to provide electronic equipment to children in vulnerable areas has an educational objective with profound social impact.
We invite you not to continue wasting time and invest efforts to build an ecologically sustainable world.