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The WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) recycling sector in Europe is to be harmonised – and at a high level. WEEELABEX is one of the leading systems aiming to achieve these stringent standards. For the first time ever, it has provided guidelines that enable the quality of recycling processes to be compared and evaluated. Working together with the Dutch take-back system Wecycle, a system well known for its extremely high standards, REMONDIS Electrorecycling is one of the first companies to implement WEEELABEX into its business underlining its pioneering role in Europe.
Very few industries are as fast moving as the electronics sector. Innovations are being brought out thick and fast with the result that older devices are being exchanged for new ones within ever shorter periods of time. It is, therefore, extremely important that recycling companies provide professional services to recover the recyclable materials in the equipment and safely remove any hazardous substances. Despite the WEEE Directive, however, there are still great differences in quality in the methods being used to recycle such devices. Such differences should now become a thing of the past. With the financial support of the European Commission, standards have been drawn up that aim to create a uniform, high quality basis for WEEE recycling. Called WEEE Label of Excellence or simply WEEELABEX, it sets standards regarding the collection, logistics and treatment of old devices. WEEELABEX was developed by the WEEE Forum, a not-for-profit, multi-national centre of competence for WEEE recycling made up of around 40 European collection and recycling systems. As part of this project, the Forum members gathered together expertise and studies from across the whole of Europe to compile “best-of-class” standards.
WEEELABEX stands for ‘WEEE Label of Excellence’
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500 tonnes of ore and a great deal of electricity are needed to produce one tonne of copper with a purity level of 99.99 percent. Alternatively, 10 tonnes of WEEE are enough to produce the same amount
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REMONDIS Electrorecycling is one of the first companies in Europe which is able to provide proof that it operates according to the WEEELABEX principles. The company is a member of the pre-group, i.e. the group of firms where tests were carried out to see if the strict standards are actually feasible in practice. The tests were performed at the company’s dismantling centre in Lünen, one of the most modern of its kind in Europe with an annual capacity of approx. 100,000 tonnes.
It became clear during the test phase that the WEEE recycling processes being used by REMONDIS were, for the most part, in line with WEEELABEX. In addition, REMONDIS extended its data collection and reporting systems over the following months. Now, for example, detailed information is also recorded about the technology used in the secondary treatment phases and comprehensive documents drawn up on the composition of the materials. In the meantime, official audits have been carried out confirming that REMONDIS fulfils the high WEEELABEX standards. As a result, it is one of the first European companies to have received a pre-certificate to this effect.
In order to ensure waste electrical and electronic equipment is handled responsibly, WEEELABEX covers three specific areas: collection, logistics and treatment
One specific feature of WEEELABEX is that priority has been put on compiling exact instructions about work processes and methods. Consequently, it goes into very precise details about the recycling of the different categories of equipment and sets very specific requirements. The WEEELABEX rules, therefore, concentrate on the operational side of the business, whilst the WEEE Directive primarily deals with the legal framework. At present, companies are free to choose whether they wish to implement the stringent WEEELABEX rules or not.
Recycling companies must undergo certification and repeat audits to prove that their everyday operations fulfil regulations.
Efforts are being made at the moment, however, to give them a more legally binding orientation in order to raise their importance. To achieve this, the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) is transforming these standards into official EN norms.
Not only European WEEE recycling will reach new levels of quality thanks to WEEELABEX. There are advantages for customers, too. They can explicitly call for such recycling standards when putting projects out to tender and so can be sure that those bidding are able to offer the same high standard of recycling. As a result, bidding processes will become far more transparent and it will be easier to compare the services offered by the different companies.