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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.

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Preface

The circular economy has become a buzz word within the global environmental policy debate during the past years. The concept, it is argued, can bring about economic as well as environmental benefits to our societies by managing our waste streams for efficiently. With this reports, Nordic Council of Ministers' Working Group on Environment and Economy (MEG) initiates an analysis which will focus on waste streams of critical metals and policy instruments for efficient management of the of these resources. We believe that this analysis is important and will become even more important in the future, since the use of products that require these materials are projected to increase even further the next coming decades. By commissioning this analysis, we also contribute to the EU circular economy strategy which among other waste streams also target critical raw materials.

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