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Emile Van Eygen, Steven De Meester, Ha P Tran, and Jo Dewulf (2016)

Resource savings by urban mining: The case of desktop and laptop computers in Belgium

Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 107:53–64.

Abstract Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) has become increasingly important over the last years. Additionally, the European Union recognizes the growing importance of raw materials, and the crucial role of recycling. In this study the performance of WEEE recycling was assessed for the case of desktop and laptop computers in Belgium in 2013. The analysis was performed in four steps. First, the recycling chain is analyzed through material flow analysis (MFA) at the level of specific materials. Second, an indicator is calculated, which quantifies the effectively recycled weight ratios of the specific materials. Third, a second indicator expresses the recycling efficiency of so-called critical raw materials. Finally, the natural resource consumption of the recycling scheme in a life cycle perspective is calculated using the Cumulative Exergy Extraction from the Natural Environment (CEENE) method, and is benchmarked with a landfill scenario. Overall, the results show that base metals such as ferrous metals, aluminium and copper are recycled to a large extent, but that for precious metals improvements still can be made. The input of criticality (arising from the incoming mass, as well as the individual criticality value of the assessed material) mainly comes from base metals, resulting in a high recovery performance of raw materials criticality. Finally, the natural resource consumption of the recycling scenario is much smaller than in case of landfilling the WEEE: 80 and 87% less resource consumption is achieved for desktops and laptops respectively, hence saving significant primary raw materials.

WEEE, Recycling, Raw material criticality, MFA, LCA

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