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E-Waste Management and Producer Responsibility
January 2005 - ongoing
Several projects for e.g.
Under the title ‘E-waste management & producer's responsibility' a number of research activities can be summarized. The goal of all research projects is to develop a systematic approach for the optimization of recycling strategies and for the definition of quality requirements for recycling products. The high content of valuable materials permits to expect that economical incentives will promote the evolution of waste management to resource management in the future.
A database on characteristics of e-waste has been established that consists of datasets obtained from own investigations and from a literature review (Janz et al. (2006-a) , Janz et al. (2006-b) , Chancerel and Rotter (2007) . The information is organized in datasets for single equipments or assemblies and can be grouped in general data on appliances, physical and mechanical properties and chemical composition. The database provides a basis for e-waste inventory and for the identification of both potential material resources and pollution sources. The characterization of e-waste is the basis for a subsequent process modeling. For this purpose material flows of unit operations are modeled by a MATLAB/SIMULINK tool.
These models were verified by experimental substance mass balances of full scale treatment processes. Therefore, two pre-processing plants were systematically investigated, all inputs and outputs sampled and analyzed over several 24 h test runs and a mass and substance balance was determined. Special focus was on the whereabouts of precious metals due to the underlying hypothesis that shredder technologies in the mechanical preprocessing of e-waste are causing higher resource losses then manual dismantling processes.
For these investigations a close cooperation between an operator of a preprocessing plant and a metal smelter (Umicore Precious Metals Refining) was established. Both enterprises financed the investigation under the scientific supervision of the TU Berlin. The results lead to an intense discussion about optimization of interfaces among various actors with the objective to increase the overall resource efficiency.
In order to apply the acquired technical knowledge to developing countries, several field trips to recycling facilities in India build the basis for a research exchange between the TUB and the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. A publication on the comparison of the recycling efficiency for e-waste management in India and Germany is in preparation. A feasibility study for the monitoring of refurbishment and recycling of mobile phones in China on behalf of the Teqport Service GmbH and T-mobile , showed that a transparent monitoring under the actual situation is not possible and, considering these limitation, a lack of resource efficiency in Chinese recycling systems. These result led the producers to decide not to send non-functioning mobile phones for a refurbishment to China.
Studies on the implementation of producer's responsibility show that, beyond technical requirements of an appropriate material flow management, structural and organizational barriers often lead to inefficient use of resources.