Condensers, capacitors and cables – just some of the electronic components that are thrown away each year as 21st century gadgets become last year’s model.
Today, up to 50-million tonnes of electronic goods are produced worldwide.
In Europe, these potentially polluting parts should be made safe and recycled.
And France has set a target to collect 10 kilos per person between now and 2014.
Laëtitia Warzee from Eco-systèmes said: “In 2009, the collection of electronic waste reached almost 6 kilos per person per year, but it’s reckoned the overall pool of rubbish amounts to 15 kilos.
To put it another way, we don’t yet collect half of the discarded household goods that we would like to. But bear in mind too that each person buys the equivalent of 20 kilos of new electrical and electronic goods every year.”
The re-birth of electrical and electronic goods begins at the collection points. One centre at Greater Nancy in Lorraine is among the most active in the field. Here, they have already begun a campaign to alert people about the need for collection and recycling.
All of the electronic waste collected every day is brought to this sorting centre.
“Once they arrive on site the first thing is to sort them by load so we can weigh them and identify where they’ve come from,” explained Pape Gueye, the head of the collection centre.
Everything is weighed and the data is put into a national computer system that can follow each piece through every part of the process.
Certain items are sent to be treated at specialist centres. The small items stay.
The director of Envie Lorraine, Pierre Guyot sifted through the latest delivery. “You find everything – a coffee mill, loudspeakers, a telephone cradle, a phone, electric tin-opener, really there’s everything in this pile here,” he explained.
“The idea is to remove things like batteries, ink cartridges from printers, cables. And then we prepare this stuff – pre-treat it in several stages – ready for the industrial grinder later on.
There it’s really broken-up to be re-cycled. So whatever it is – polymers, scrap metal, steel or copper can be put back into industry.”
Discarded TVs from the region are taken to the depot at Pompey. Every month they break up and dismantle 400 tonnes of unwanted equipment.
“It’s reckoned nowadays that we recycle 98 per cent of an old television – in other words there’s practically no waste left compared with before when this set would have been buried two metres down to pollute an area of 100 square metres for 50 years,” Guyot went on. “When you leave your old TV at a tip or a dealer now, you can be sure that it will be properly cleaned up – and that’s true for all this electrical and electronic waste.”
Ordinary folk are catching on to e-recycling more and more, but among the professionals there’s a less impressive uptake. The idea that companies pay to recycle the goods they sell still has not really caught on.