17 Jan 2017

Industry comments on JRC report on disassembly methodology for EEE

Industry comments on JRC report on disassembly methodology for EEE

Study for a method to assess the disassembly of electrical and electronic equipment

The JRC study assesses disassembly time calculation methods for recycling. It also considers necessary characteristics for a standardised method to assess the ease of disassembly to then develop a calculation method and table for small electronic devices with a maximum weight of 4kg, which can be disassembled on a workbench.

While the assessment is based on end of life methods, the proposed methodology does not differentiate between recycling and repair. This is problematic in that, for disassembly for material recycling, time is critical whereas reversibility is not. For disassembly for repair, both reversibility and timing are critical.

Furthermore, we would question that a simple measure of overall disassembly time is sufficient to determine recyclability. Manual processing will also, for example, use cutting tools to dismantle products. There may be specific instances where screws are the focus, but not, for example for draining coolant gases from fridges, or removing phosphor coatings from inside CRTs. There are TVs taken apart very quickly using a circular saw.

For instance, a recent paper based on research on 16 recycling plants in Portugal presents a mixed picture: Firstly, to increase the range of metals recovered from small WEEE, it advocates increased manual disassembly (by employing more workers not by making manual disassembly easier). Secondly, to increase recycling rate of these metals it advocates investment in mechanical processing (particularly for PCBs). Both manual and mechanical processing is required for effective WEEE recycling, and there is a limit to which manual disassembly is the optimal solution. Whether disassembly or manual treatment is needed depends upon the specific product and component, as well as the available post processing technology used for subsequent mechanical recovery

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