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?
Recycling and processing
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.
LCA study of discarded TV sets and monitors
All positive and negative environmental inputs and outputs involved in the collection, transport and processing of waste electrical and electronic equipment were described and precisely determined within the inventory analysis of taken-back TV sets and monitors. The transport distances from all the collection sites to all the treatment facilities and the environmental impacts of transport were also ascertained within this inventory analysis. Furthermore, the technological equipment of the individual treatment facilities was described and, on the basis of specific consumption values, total demands for inputs (electricity, natural gas, water, chemicals, spare parts, diesel fuel) were calculated for the chosen functional unit, i.e. per average TV set and per average monitor.
The same procedure was used for the subsequent treatment of the individual fractions created in the disassembly of TV sets and monitors. Treatment of each individual component and fraction was documented up to its final recycling into a new product or its final disposal. Environmental impacts were determined for each fraction (e.g. in the form of replacing primary raw materials or fuels).
ASEKOL has resolved to use the results of the LCA study for its environmental accounting system. Each client of the compliance scheme who places TV sets or monitors on the market and each collection site involved in the ASEKOL compliance scheme will obtain, together with the annual report, an individual accounting of its contribution to the environment, which will be calculated on the basis of the aforementioned analysis.
The results of LCA unambiguously confirmed that the activities of the ASEKOL compliance scheme create clear benefits for the environment.
For example, take-back of one TV set (or monitor):
- saves 162.39 kWh of electricity (125.04 kWh for a monitor). The same amount of energy is used, e.g., by a 60 W light bulb which is burning continuously for 4 months (3 months for a monitor).
- saves energy-producing raw materials. For example, it becomes unnecessary to extract 2.89 litres of oil (3.05 litres for a monitor) and 4.38 kg of coal (2.86 for a monitor). The same quantity of oil is used, e.g., for travelling 22 km in a passenger vehicle with typical consumption (23 km for a monitor). The same amount of coal is consumed for one stoking of a central heating boiler in an ordinary family home.
- saves primary raw materials. It becomes unnecessary to extract a total of 9.73 kg of primary raw materials (1.39 kg for a monitor), consisting mostly of sand, lime and iron.
- saves 745 litres of potable water (757 litres for a monitor), and thus avoids creating the same quantity of polluted wastewater. The same quantity of water is used, e.g., during 10 showers.
- reduces the production of hazardous waste by 145 kg (163 kg for a monitor). The same quantity of hazardous waste is produced by 36 households in a year (41 households for a monitor).
- reduces the emissions of greenhouse gases by 44 kg of CO2 (32 kg for a monitor). The same quantity of CO2 is produced by a car travelling from Prague to Ostrava.
If the same values are applied to the total collected quantities of monitors and TV sets during a year, we obtain the values shown in the following table.
|Number of TVs/monitors collected in 2010||403,217||226,810||630,027|
|Electricity savings (MWh)||65,478||28,360||93,839|
|Oil savings (l)||1,165,297||691,771||1,857,068|
|Primary resources savings||3,923||315||4,239|
|Water savings (m3)||300,397||171,695||472,092|
|Reduction in hazardous waste production (t)||58,466||36,970||95,436|
|Reduction in greenhouse gas
emissions (t CO2 equiv.)
Energy and material recovery from taken-back television sets corresponds to substantial energy savings. The greatest energy savings come from recycling of glass and material recovery of components with high contents of copper and precious metals (Ag, Au, Pt and Pd), such as cables and the plates of printed circuits. Savings are also derived from recycling of iron, aluminium and plastics and through energy recovery from plastics and wood.
Collection, transport and disassembly of discarded television sets increase the consumption of energy. Compared to the energy savings, however, this consumption is quite low and does not exceed 10% of the total energy.