Thermodynamic rarity of electrical and electronic waste: Assessment and policy implications for critical materials
Roos Lindgreen, E.
The strategic relevance of extracting raw materials from waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in the EU is increasing due to value chain risks caused by geopolitical instability, accessibility of specific minerals, and decreasing reserves due to growing extraction rates. This article examines the quantities of so-called critical raw materials (CRMs) originating within WEEE streams from a depletion perspective. Presently, current recycling targets are based solely on mass collection and recycling rates. We examine the potential limitations of this approach using an exergy-based indicator named thermodynamic rarity. This indicator represents the exergy costs needed for producing materials from the bare rock to market. The case of Italy is used to explore the application of the indicator at the macro (national) and micro (company) level for the product categories “small electronics” and “screens and monitors.” Our estimations show significant differences between the mass and rarity of materials within Italian WEEE streams. While iron accounts for more than 70% of the weight of the product categories analyzed, it accounts for less than 15% of the rarity. Similarly, several CRMs with a small mass have a higher rarity value, for example, tungsten with less than 0.1% of the mass and over 6% of the rarity. The policy context is reflected upon, where it is argued that thermodynamic rarity can provide novel insights to support end-of-life WEEE decision-making processes, for example, target development and recycling standards setting to help prioritize material monitoring and recovery options. (C) 2023 The Authors. Journal of Industrial Ecology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of International Society for Industrial Ecology.
To reference this document use:
critical raw materials
extended producer responsibility
waste from electrical and electronic equipment
Critical raw materials
Electrical and electronic wastes
Extended producer responsibility
Waste from electrical and electronic equipments
John Wiley and Sons Inc
Journal of Industrial Ecology