The most common items in the collection and processing category of small appliances and devices (with an edge length of 50 cm or less) are the following:
- Small household appliances (e.g. Irons, mixers, hairdryers, space heaters, etc.)
- IT & telecommunications devices (e.g. PCs, printers, scanners, mobile phones, etc.)
- Radios and stereo equipment,
- lighting fixtures,
- tools, sport and leisure equipment, and
- medical devices.
Recovering raw materials
After the hazardous substances have been removed, small appliances and devices are either disassembled by hand at disassembly plants (and sorted into separate categories like metals or plastic housings right away) or broken down into smaller pieces at processing facilities and then separated into different output categories. Some components that cannot be completely sorted out at disassembly plants are sent along to processing facilities for mechanical processing (cross-flow shredders, smashers).
The following table and graph present the approximate quantity of raw materials recovered each year in the processing of small appliances and devices, and the proportion of different specific materials that are recovered. In addition to hazardous components and substances, the remaining portion also includes other miscellaneous components, such as ceramic and glass components, that can in some cases be sent off for material recycling as well.
Materials recovered from small appliances and devices (2017 data)
Hazardous substance removal
In Austria, small electrical and electronic equipment currently goes through the different steps of hazardous substance removal and further processing at either a disassembly plant or a specialised processing facility.
In this process, all components that contain or could contain hazardous substances must be removed. Capacitors, mercury switches, circuit boards and batteries are removed from all appliances. Appliances that contain asbestos (e.g. heaters or old clothes irons) are separated out and sent to special processing companies that are specifically authorised to work with appliances containing asbestos. This work must be performed by trained professionals who know exactly which hazardous components and substances are present in these appliances, and where they are located.
At disassembly plants, this is generally done by manually taking the equipment apart and removing the hazardous components and substances. In Austria, this type of work is also commonly done in connection with social projects (e.g. DRZ Vienna, www.drz-wien.at).
At processing facilities (e.g. EAR Höpperger in Tyrol, see www.hoepperger.at/ear/), appliances and devices are separated into their individual components using special machines (e.g. cross-flow shredders at www.andritz.com/recycling or smashers at www.mueller-guttenbrunn.at). The purpose of separating the components carefully is to ensure that the hazardous components (e.g. batteries, capacitors) are not damaged, and can be sorted out manually in a subsequent step.
The hazardous components and substances must be stored and processed separately in order to ensure that no substances are released that could be toxic to human health or the environment.