How to recycle and decontaminate electronic and electrical waste

Posted on 24 December 2015.

A Veolia site near Angers in France separates the materials used in electrical and electronic waste for optimum recycling.

Recycling WEEE creates a virtuous circle that protects the environment and reintroduces scarce materials into the economic cycle.

More and more high-tech devices in our day to day lives equals more waste electrical and electronic equipment, or WEEE, when it becomes obsolete. This waste contains components that are a danger to the environment and the reusable materials they contain - such as ferrous metals, plastics and precious and scarce metals - have to be recycled. For the last 15 years WEEE recycling has been one of Veolia’s major areas of expertise. Its subsidiary, Triad Electronique, runs five plants in France. The plant in Saint Sylvain d'Anjou near Angers is a particularly innovative WEEE site which has been in operation since 2008.

A recycling capacity of over 80%

The center is able to process up to 55,000 tons of WEEE a year, including 10,000 tons of screens – all from an area covering 27 administrative departments and almost 14 million people. The recycling rate for the waste entering the plant is over 80%, making it one of the best performing centers in France. Waste recovery is 94% for large household appliances, 91% for small household appliances and 88% for monitors, including, since 2014, flat screens - much higher recovery rates than those required by the regulations. In just one hour, the Saint Sylvain d'Anjou center can process 70 refrigerators - recovering over 99% of the CFCs responsible for the destruction of the ozone layer - and disassemble 400 televisions! It also has an innovative process for separating and recovering different types of plastics, which represent 25% of the volume of waste. Its automated process can sort up to ten different polymers. Purity is well above 99% and so provides some real opportunities for reusing materials. The Saint Sylvain d'Anjou center employs 200 people - some of whom are disabled or on back to work schemes ‒ and greatly helps to reduce the carbon footprint. Alone it avoids nearly 72,000 tons of CO2 emissions every year!