Major steps in e-waste: recycling electronic equipment

E-waste is any kind of discarded equipment with a plug or battery – also known as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). Resource and energy companies Meerlanden and AEB Amsterdam collect and sort e-waste respectively at their Regional Sorting Centre near Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and Recycle Service Centre in Amsterdam Westpoort, where equipment is also disassembled. The Board has been an important stimulus for these pioneers to start expanding and constructing their sorting centres. The more effectively equipment is sorted and disassembled, the cleaner the materials are, and the better they can be recycled.

Of the 40,000 metric tons of e-waste produced annually in the municipalities of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, 21,000 tons is collected (53%), according to a report by Dr2 New Economy and Metabolic (in Dutch). The other half is not recycled, which leaves a lot of room for improvement. What’s more, in 2019 the recycling target will be raised to 65%.

Collecting and sorting

AEB Amsterdam and Meerlanden collect e-waste from the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. AEB Amsterdam collects and sorts 5,000 tons of e-waste a year from the municipalities in the region, of which 1,300 to 1,500 tons originates from Amsterdam. Meerlanden collects and sorts 3,000 tons of household e-waste a year and 4,000 tons from retail businesses, and also receives requests from other companies to collect their e-waste. The total capacity of Meerlanden’s collecting and sorting centre is between 5,000 and 6,000 tons, so the company can handle another 1,000 to 2,000 tons.

The equipment is sorted into 24 different streams, including refrigerators, IT equipment, large domestic appliances, solar panels, televisions, various kinds of light bulbs, telephones and cables.

Circular chain: how does it work?

Meerlanden is now WEEELABEX certified and capable of collecting, sorting, disassembling and processing e-waste. The sorted e-waste is then transported to large processing companies such as Coolrec, Sims and HKS, which recover all the valuable material for recycling.

AEB Amsterdam recovers copper from WEEE. The company uses a copper separator to remove valuable copper from cables, which is then processed into copper granules for re-use. AEB Amsterdam’s application for WEEELABEX certification is currently in progress.

Social employment

Both companies employ people who are disadvantaged in the labour market. WEEE sorting takes place via AEB Amsterdam in collaboration with the social enterprise Stichting Milieuwerk at the Recycle Service Centre. Around 65 FTEs are devoted to sorting e-waste from the region. Meerlanden is able to employ 24 people a year who are disadvantaged in the labour market. The purpose is activation: the people are guided into regular employment.

Role of the Board

The Amsterdam Economic Board helped to set these developments in motion by conducting thorough market research and bringing together the parties concerned within the scope of the Board’s material transition programme. This is the collaborative programme in which waste streams are combined and upgraded at the scale of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area to create new material streams. 

Sources: Wim Bunnik (AEB Amsterdam) and Diederik Notenboom (Meerlanden). Photo: Meerlanden

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This is part 4 of a series of articles on the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area’s material transition programme.

#slimgroengezond

The resource transition programme is unique and concentrates both on the supply of materials and the demand for products and materials. Valuable resources can only be used more efficiently and for an increasing length of time if the demand for them is substantial. In this respect, the AMA is becoming a prime hub for the circular use of resources, making it attractive to companies, stakeholders, funders and start-ups.