Used equipment is a valuable resource – Stop illegal exports
In Austria, about 180,000 tonnes of electrical and electronic equipment are put into circulation each year. About 80,000 tonnes are collected each year and recycled according to a legally-compliant, environmentally-friendly process. This allows for the recovery of large quantities of secondary raw materials that would otherwise only be accessible through the use of heavy machinery with a severe impact on the environment, while also avoiding large amounts of emissions that would have contributed to global warming.
Nevertheless, old electrical and electronic equipment still winds up in the wrong places all too often. Besides small devices, many of which are still disposed of with other household waste, a significant number of large appliances are handed off to informal collectors. In addition to the economic impact (see below), this also hurts the environment, since informal collectors don’t have the same range of technical options for recovering valuable raw materials in an environmentally-friendly way – not to mention the questionable effectiveness of their methods. Components and hazardous materials that cannot be recycled are generally dumped illegally, resulting in long-term damage to our environment.
Since 2002, the Austrian Waste Management Act (Abfallwirtschaftsgesetz) has stipulated that waste materials may only be handed over to authorised waste treatment operators. Therefore, giving used electrical and electronic equipment to illegal collectors – often referred to in Austria as the “Kleinmaschinenbrigaden” (Appliance Brigades) – is simply illegal.
Every refrigerator, every washing machine, and every mobile phone contains secondary raw materials like gold, copper or iron. These are the “hidden values” in our devices and appliances – and they’re worth real money.
In fact, a tonne of old mobile phones contains up to 50 times more gold than a tonne of raw gold ore! A washing machine consists of about 60% iron, 11% plastic, 5% glass and 3% non-ferrous metals (copper, aluminium, etc.). An electric stove is actually 83% iron. All of these are valuable metals that can be recycled.
So it’s all the more important that waste electrical and electronic equipment be taken to one of Austria’s over 2100 municipal collection centres to be disposed of in a professional and environmentally-friendly way. Many collection centres already have their own reuse areas, where used but still-functional electrical and electronic equipment is collected and checked for its reuse potential.
You can find any one of Austria’s municipal collection centres easily and conveniently with our Collection Centre Finder.
Used equipment is a valuable resource – let’s keep Austria’s resources here at home!
The core message of the EAK’s waste consultancy award, known as the “Elektro-Nick” for short, is that “Austria’s raw materials aren’t rubbish” (“Österreichs Rohstoffe sind kein Müll”). Among the many wonderful submissions, a waste consultant from the Stadtwerke Kufstein public utility company won first prize with its short film: