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Electronic Retailers In Europe Now Required To Take Back Old Goods 162

Posted by timothy
from the also-you-must-never-go-bankrupt dept.
Qedward writes with this excerpt about the EU approach to E-waste: "A European Union law that will require all large electronic retailers to take back old equipment came into force yesterday. The new rules are part of a shake-up of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive and will gradually be implemented across the EU over the next seven years. Waste electrical and electronic equipment, or WEEE, is one the fastest growing waste streams in the EU, but currently only one-third of electrical and electronic waste is separately collected and appropriately treated. Systematic collection and proper treatment is essential for recycling materials like gold, silver, copper and rare metals in used TVs, laptops and mobile phones."
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Electronic Retailers In Europe Now Required To Take Back Old Goods

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  • by tommeke100 (755660) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:08AM (#40983395)
    They now charge a 'recycling fee' on new electronic appliances. This goes from a couple of cents for small electronics to a couple of euros for fridges.
  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:10AM (#40983407)

    As long as the fucking Chinese have a stranglehold on most of the rare-earth production then we're stupid not to recycle what we have.

    Contrary to what the name implies, rare-earth metals actually aren't that rare. They are just found in very low concentrations, which means that refining them is energy-expensive and environmentally unfriendly. This is why most production takes place in China: they run coal-fired power plants (with lots of cheap coal to run them) and don't give a crap about the environment. We could refine rare-earth metals in the US or European Union from domestic ore supplies, but it would be much more expensive because the production would have to be compliant with worker safety and environmental protection standards. Should a true emergency situation arise, we could make ends meet.

  • by Teun (17872) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:12AM (#40983437) Homepage
    Indeed, one might hope...

    But already for many years similar legislation has been in place in a couple of EU member states and I've yet to see a turning of the curve to more sustainable equipment.

  • by ledow (319597) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:28AM (#40983615) Homepage

    I think your assumption that it must be "easier" to get the ore out of a monitor than a raw material is probably very false.

    Indium in what form? How processed? Combined with what? Integrated into what component? It's used to form electrodes in LCD screens, but does that mean that each pixel has a coating of it three-or-four coatings deep? And only covering that pixel? How many pixels on the screen to deconstruct to get to that? How much per pixel versus much work? What if it's in a form that now requires more energy to separate it (e.g. rust contains iron and oxygen, but you don't see a market for your old rust)? What if it's next to and mixed with other chemicals that you can't filter without health hazards, or where your process has to sacrifice one for the other?

    All things that wouldn't affect raw-ore refining (Who cares what happens to the other rock in the ore? Almost certainly indium will be found among heaps of junk that's easily dissolved in acid and then disposed of etc.).

    It's also a bit like "uncooking" food. Yeah, my cake has eggs in it. You can try to take the eggs out after I've baked it if you like. The collatoral damage, energy, precision, processing and just sheer time involved mean that it's just not worth it.

    Now if we're talking discrete components, e.g. a PCB track made of gold or copper, or a magnet in a hard drive, then you can just extract those components, burn the residue and get some value if the raw material is valuable enough. Like people stealing catalytic converters for their platinum. Who cares about what else is there, the platinum alone is easily extractable and worth the effort.

    Just because it says "indium", it doesn't mean "raw indium, in the same format as it was dug out of the earth in." And, as you point out, even extracting from 1ppm is extensive, complicated, elaborate and expensive when you don't CARE about what else is in the rock and you're not paying for the rock. Just multiplying it up by even 250 doesn't mean it's any easier to extract than from the raw ore.

    By the same token, extracting gold from seawater should be incredibly easy and profitable. It isn't. Because gold ore is much nicer to handle and extract. Just because it's "1ppm" doesn't even mean it's spread as dust throughout vast rock formation. It might meant just that you have to dig up a mountain to find one block of it in a lump (e.g. diamonds, gold, etc.)

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:39AM (#40983757)

    In many cases, electronics that are supposed to be recycled really aren't. Instead, they are dumped in the Third World [pbs.org] where they cause all kinds of environmental problems.

    Even when some actual recycling is done, it is likely to make the impact on the environment worse, not better, than if it was just dumped in a landfill. See this article [softpedia.com] for some details (with photos) of how an electronics "recycling" operation in China threatens both the environment and worker safety. Of course, it's all about the Benjamins: "Sending a monitor to China costs about ten cents. Actually recycling it costs several dollars."

    If the European Union wants this regulation to have a positive impact, they need to stipulate that the equipment be recycled locally under EU safety and environmental standards – not just exported to Ghana or China and down the memory hole.

  • by fridaynightsmoke (1589903) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:48AM (#40983859) Homepage

    Can anyone find the mistake?

    LCDs are so 2008. Is there any indium in LED monitors?

    With the exception of a couple of OLED smartphones, 'LED' monitors and TV sets *are* LCD. The 'LED' part is the backlight, instead of fluorescent tubes.

  • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @09:53AM (#40983917)

    LCDs are so 2008. Is there any indium in LED monitors?

    Indium "wets" glass so any screen with LCD pixel elements uses indium as some form of mask/plate/wiring. I'm not involved enough to know further details. Its not in the florescent tubes or LED or whatever your LCD screen uses for illumination. Even a reflective non-backlit display like an old fashioned wristwatch from the 80s would still have indium... I think.

    From a marketing perspective LCDs with LEDs used to backlight seem to be marketed as "LED" whereas monitors using individual LEDs as pixels are marketed as "OLED" so a LED monitor uses indium but a OLED monitor probably does not.

    Everything I've read about OLED is it really sucks, low res, short lifetime, UV fading, extreme cost. Maybe someday it'll be competitive and no one will use indum anymore.

  • by jimmy_dean (463322) <james,hodapp&gmail,com> on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @10:01AM (#40983987) Homepage

    "Wouldn't this make the long-term profit on more durable items larger?"

    No, this is a tax and thus is a net drain on society. Morality can't be legislated, even if recycling is a good thing. This is nannying the general populous in a very large way and will result in more special treatment for special interests. When these companies can no longer compete with the rest of the world, they'll either move out of Europe or seek special favors from the EU politicians to help keep them afloat. This happens again, and again and is nothing new.

  • by jpmorgan (517966) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @10:47AM (#40984633) Homepage

    Yup. Most rare earth minerals came from the Mountain Pass mine in southern California, until the Chinese priced them almost out of the market in the 1990s.

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @11:02AM (#40984815)

    Yup. Most rare earth minerals came from the Mountain Pass mine in southern California, until the Chinese priced them almost out of the market in the 1990s.

    Then the Chinese raised their prices, and the Mountain Pass Mine [wikipedia.org] reopened and is due to reach full production latter this year.

  • by Luckyo (1726890) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @11:21AM (#40985035)

    While true, that is because of level of life of average citizen as well as significant amount of people living in extreme poverty in China.

    Pollution per production would be a far more fair assessment here, and in that regard China is unfortunately off-scale.

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