Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)

In Italy, the acronym WEEE stands for waste electrical and electronic equipment. In this category, many types of waste that differ in composition, method of utilization and characteristics, but which are all afferent to electronic devices, are grouped – i.e. all the devices that use electric energy for their operation. WEEE can be of two types: domestic and professional, which are then subdivided into 10 categories:

  • Large household electrical appliances
  • Small  household electrical appliances
  • IT and telecommunications equipment
  • Consumer equipment (consumer electronics)
  • Lighting equipment
  • Electrical and electronic tools
  • Toys, leisure and sports equipment
  • Medical devices
  • Monitoring and control instruments
  • Automatic dispensers

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In this category of waste, a number of different substances and materials can be found, such as plastic metals, chemical substances, etc. and for this reason their correct disposal and recycling is rather expensive. Up to not long ago, this waste was erroneously disposed of in the dump, which involved severe risks for health and the environment. In order to avoid this damage, the European Union and its Member States promulgated a series of measures in order to manage this type of waste correctly.
How are these special materials recycled? There are 4 phases in order to  recycle WEEE: separate waste collection, making the materials safe, treatment and recovery. Separate waste collection of WEEE is carried out by the end user, who, in this case is not always the consumer, but can also be a retailer or the Company that is appointed to take care of the same. For the citizens, collection points are usually available, or a service for collecting the equipment directly at home, which is an alternative to the door to door collection. Professional WEEE is collected directly at the premises of the company, organism or plant. WEEE that is deposited is taken care of (in Italy)  by ReMedia a consortium that is in charge of treating the materials and making them safe. This is because WEEE often contains harmful substances that must be separated before they are treated, and must be removed so that it is easier to recycle the materials. Waste is  subjected to inverse production lines that break up the materials and transform them in order to recover the raw materials that can be utilized again in new production cycles.

Sources:
Remedia
, Consorzio nazionale per la gestione eco-sostenibile di tutte le categorie di Rifiuti di Apparecchiature Elettriche ed Elettroniche
Cassinelli N., Del Duro R. La raccolta differenziata dei rifiuti e il riciclo delle materie seconde, FrancoAngeli, 2007

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