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Recycling and reuse

Annual mass of recovered raw materials in tonnes – based on 2011 data

Total WEEE reuse

The total mass of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) collected in Austria each year comes to about 88,000 tonnes (data from 2011). By collecting WEEE according to a rigorous system of five collection and processing categories, and by collecting used vehicle and device batteries as well, valuable raw materials can be recovered from used equipment and batteries. Recycling and reusing old equipment and batteries is essential – not only because our natural resources are growing ever scarcer, but also because recycling is far more efficient in terms of energy use.
The following table and graph provide an overview of the approximate quantity of raw materials that can be recovered from the waste electrical and electronic equipment and used batteries collected in Austria each year.

Portions Mass [t] Proportion [%]
Ferrous metals 34.356 39,0
Non-ferrous metals 15.478 17,6
Plastics 19.596 22,2
PUR powder 1.757 2,0
Glass 11.937 13,6
Sulphuric acid 2.178 2,5
Remainder 2.792 3,1
Total 88.094 100,0

 

The two metal portions can be almost entirely reused as secondary raw materials.

At present, about 40% of the plastic portion can be recovered as separate types of plastics ; the rest is thermally processed. In thermal processing, the mixed plastics are processed into secondary fuels. These high-quality secondary fuels largely replace imported fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. The energy from the thermally processed plastics is equivalent to the annual power consumption of about 18,500 homes – about the amount of power used by private homes in the Austrian city of St. Pölten.

The PUR (polyurethane) powder recovered from refrigerators and freezers can be used e.g. as a chemical and oil binder.

Recycled glass, recovered mainly from display devices and gas-discharge lamps, can be reused to make new picture tubes, or in glass-based recycling materials.
Sulphuric acid is extracted from used vehicle batteries. The sodium sulphate recovered in the recycling process is used mainly as an important raw material in the production of laundry detergent.
The remaining portion consists mainly of the various hazardous components, materials and substances that must be removed from the used equipment before recycling to avoid any risks to human health or the environment. Collecting waste in strict accordance with the five collection and processing categories ensures not only that raw materials are recovered as effectively as possible, but also that all hazardous substances are safely removed.