Critical metals in discarded electronics

Mapping recycling potentials from selected waste electronics in the Nordic region

image of Critical metals in discarded electronics

Recycling of waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) traditionally focuses on large quantities of waste materials such as plastics. However, some product groups in the WEEE contain hidden treasures in the form of critical metals. This project assesses the critical metals’ waste handling as part of five selected product groups, in the Nordic region. The environmental and economic benefits from the recycling of these metals currently and in the near future is quite substantial, mainly due to the presence of significant quantities of gold in the selected products. In order to contribute further to the circular economy concept, the Nordic countries should pay attention not only to quantitative but also to qualitative aspects of recycling, in order to capture recyclable materials that, although in small quantities, their recycling brings a high economic and environmental value.



Data collection

Waste data can be found in national or international sources: national statistical offices or environmental protection agencies (EPAs) and Eurostat. However, waste data is collected in a more aggregated level than the selected product groups: data from these sources corresponds to the WEEE categories as defined in European legislation (EC, 2012). Also waste data often refer to collected amounts and not generated amounts. The purpose of the project is not to investigate the efficiency of waste collection systems, but to estimate the amount of critical metals in waste available for collection and processing. As such, waste generation data should be used and not data on waste collected.


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