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RoHS substances in mixed plastics from Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment

TitleRoHS substances in mixed plastics from Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsWaeger P, Schluep M, Mueller E
Prepared forEuropean WEEE Forum
Pages99
InstitutionEmpa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology
CitySt.Gallen / Switzerland
AbstractThe disposal and recovery of plastics from WEEE is of considerable importance, both from an economic and an environmental perspective. Plastics from WEEE may contain hazardous substances and give rise to high processing costs, depending on the disposal or recovery route. In a study commissioned by the WEEE Forum with Empa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, two questions related to these issues were addressed: - What are the concentrations of substances regulated by the Directive 2002/95/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS Directive) in mixed plastics from selected WEEE categories and products? - What are the implications for an environmentally sound recovery of plastics from WEEE? Empa’s final report (17 September 2010) consists of three parts. A first part deals with the results of a preliminary literature review, a second part presents the results of a sampling campaign for mixed WEEE plastics, and a third part identifies implications for WEEE plastics recovery and disposal. In the literature review, the quantitatively most relevant plastic types were identified for the WEEE categories and product types in the focus of the study for Europe. Based on published results, the occurrence of heavy metals and brominated flame retardants regulated by the RoHS Directive in the different plastic types were estimated. With the literature review, first indications on plastic shares and their RoHS substance contents can be given, however the data is still associated with significant uncertainties due to restricted scopes of the studies reviewed, data limitations and differing underlying assumptions, e.g. regarding service lives. The sampling campaign included 53 mixed plastic samples from mixed WEEE categories, WEEE categories 1-4 and single product types, which had been provided by 15 WEEE Forum member organisations. The samples were analysed with regard to the four heavy metals (cadmium, (hexavalent) chromium, mercury and lead) and flame retardants (PentaBDE, OctaBDE, DecaBDE, DecaBB) which are regulated in the RoHS Directive. Besides RoHS regulated substances, other brominated flame retardants known to occur in electronics (HBCD, TBBPA), the total bromine content, the total phosphorus content and elements such as antimony were also included in the analyses. Based on the results of the sampling campaign, the mixed plastics fractions were allocated to four groups reflecting different degrees of “criticality” with regard to their recovery. According to the allocation there is no uncritical mixed plastics fraction, whereas there are two fractions which appear to be very critical (mixed plastics from CRT monitors and CRT TVs). In view of a further discussion with the relevant stakeholders, possible guidelines for a recovery of plastics out of mixed plastics fractions from WEEE treatment are proposed.
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