Irina Oswald
Environmental Metrics for WEEE Collection and Recycling Programs
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Armin Reller [Resource Strategy]
Date of oral examination: 03/14/2013
140 pages, english , Opus online
The take back and recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is of major importance for electronics producers due to mandatory take back regulations, as well as a commitment to producer responsibility and resource conservation. WEEE col- lection programs require metrics to measure performance and progress over time. Current metrics are not providing an impetus for the improvement of program quality and environ- mental effectiveness. This research proposes an alternative metric to measure the success of producers%92 collection and recycling programs, by focusing attention on raw materials recovery and the environmental benefits of recycling. Previous research is analyzed and used as a baseline for the development of the %91Avoided Environmental Burden%92 (AEB) metric. Sensitivity analysis is performed to demonstrate possibilities for corporate performance improvement. The AEB metric captures different environmental dimensions, namely energy, exergy, greenhouse gas emissions, ecological footprint, acidification, eutrophication and human toxicity potential. To test the robustness of the approach, the metric is validated against the results of an empirical WEEE sampling and pre-processing trial. In this trial, the yields of six materials are assessed and inefficiencies in material separation and recovery are identified. The AEB performance of the trial is compared with the results of two modeled recycling scenarios. The results of the analysis show that collection and recycling program performance can be improved by at least 40%25 if raw materials are recovered at a higher rate in pre-processing. As for the modeled cases, the research demonstrates that the collection of environmentally impactful material is useful to maximize program performance, but the potential is only fully tapped if producers select the most efficient recycling process for the treatment of the collected WEEE. The results of the analysis demonstrate that the AEB metric is a powerful tool for companies to estimate the environmental performance of collection programs at the planning stage, which in turn enables strategic program development. The AEB metric is more effective than mass and unit based metrics as it motivates producers to actively engage with the downstream recycling chain and make informed decisions based on eco-efficiency considerations.