WEEE: how the disposal takes place at authorized treatment centers
The plants authorized for the treatment of WEEE have specific plants and machineries that are necessary to correctly manage this waste with particular characteristics. Generally, in the same plant there are several lines, dedicated specifically to the treatment of a single group of WEEE, and therefore within the treatment centers there are storage areas necessary for the temporary storage of waste of the same type. These deposits must take into account the possible presence of dangerous components inside the appliances, in order to prevent the risk of contamination.
In this regard, we remind that a significant part of the WEEE recycling process is still carried out manually by specialized personnel: only in this way, in fact, is it possible to safely eliminate the hazardous substances contained within the waste and effectively provide for the differentiation of the different components. The use of special machinery is still central to the treatment of WEEE, following their disassembly: let’s see together which tools are used to treat the different types of electrical and electronic equipment waste on the market.
WEEE R1 – Refrigerating equipment
WEEE belonging to group R1 (refrigerators, freezers, industrial or professional refrigeration appliances, air conditioning appliances) are characterized by the presence of refrigerant circuits that may contain gases that are dangerous for ozone and polymers used for thermal insulation, which must be disposed of correctly to avoid dispersion into the atmosphere. For these reasons, R1 type WEEE must remain intact during all phases of collection, transport and storage, and can only be disassembled within specialized disposal centers.
- Manual disassembly of components
- Remediation and elimination of gases present in the refrigerant circuit
- Disassembly of the compressors (which are treated separately, to recover the components present in the engine)
- Shredding of the structures of the refrigerating appliances (casings), which are reduced to a size of a few centimeters
- Separation of the ferrous component of the carcasses
- Further shredding, to further reduce the size and separate non-ferrous metals (aluminum and copper) and plastics from polyurethane foams
- Separation of plastic from metal components
At the end of the process, iron, plastic, copper and aluminum are obtained, ready to be sent for recycling.
WEEE R2 – Great whites
This WEEE group includes big household appliances that do not contain refrigerant circuits, such as washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, hobs, microwave ovens, heating systems and so on.
The treatment of this waste involves a first manual disassembly, necessary to remove any dangerous components (mercury, asbestos …) or that can be exploited. Electric cables, motors, switches and other parts are tehn removed and must be disposed of separately, while particular components such as the concrete counterweights of washing machines are sent to plants for the treatment of inert materials.
The casings of the household appliances are then shredded with special double or four shaft shredders, which reduce their size and allow the ferrous, metal and plastic components to be separated.
WEEE of this group includes two types of waste with different characteristics: cathode ray tube monitors and televisions and flat screen monitors and televisions.
Equipment equipped with cathode ray tubes must be treated separately from the rest, by separating the casing (almost always in plastic, more rarely in wood) from the other components. The insulated casing can be shredded and sent for recycling, while the cathode ray tube must be disassembled and reclaimed separately, to avoid the dispersion of hazardous substances into the environment and recover the metal and glass present inside.
Anche i monitor a schermo piatto devono essere smontati con particolare attenzione, per non danneggiare le parti che illuminano lo schermo e recuperare le varie materie prime presenti al loro interno. Anche in questo caso si procede manualmente alla separazione degli schermi dalle carcasse in plastica (che vengono triturate e riciclate) o in metallo (che contengono per la gran parte materiale ferroso e che quindi possono essere recuperate e rifuse). In seguito si differenziano le altre componenti presenti nello schermo, come i cavi elettrici (da cui si può recuperare il rame) le schede elettroniche o le lampade a scarica che devono essere inviate ad appositi impianti di trattamento in grado di provvedere alla loro bonifica.
Even flat screen monitors must be disassembled with particular care, in order not to damage the parts that illuminate the screen and recover the various raw materials present inside them. Also in this case, the screens are manually separated from the plastic (which are shredded and recycled) or metal (which mostly contain ferrous material and which can therefore be recovered and re-melted). Subsequently, the other components present in the screen are differentiated, such as the electric cables (from which the copper can be recovered), the electronic cards or the discharge lamps which must be sent to special treatment plants able to take care of their reclamation.
WEEE R4 – Small appliances
This group of WEEE includes many types of equipment that are very different from each other, which are normally collected all together at the treatment center. First of all, therefore, it is necessary to group the waste into homogeneous groups, to then proceed with the removal of the dangerous components, the manual disassembly and the shredding and separation of the materials.
Carcasses and non-hazardous components are normally shredded to reduce their size; once the material leaves the shredder, the ferrous component is first separated, by means of a magnet, to then move on to the differentiation of the other components (plastics, aluminum, brass, copper…).
WEEE R5 – Light sources
This type of WEEE, which includes all the different types of lighting equipment, has rather particular characteristics, since the waste contains significant quantities of mercury, and must therefore be treated with particular attention, to avoid possible contamination. Given the dangerousness of this waste, WEEE-R5 can only be disposed of in special establishments, capable of separating the mercury component and recovering the glass, metal and plastic present in the bulbs. Also in this case, once the mercury has been reclaimed, the waste is normally shredded and the different components separated, in particular the glass which makes up about 85% of WEEE-R5. If treated correctly, the lighting equipment is 95% recyclable, in complete safety and without danger to the environment or human health.
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