The quantity of electrical and electronic equipment discarded worldwide in tons each year is assumed to run to a figure in double-digit millions. It is believed that figure will double over the next ten years. Difficulties caused by electronic waste: some of it poses huge problems for people and the environment.
The extent to which effects of the pollutant substances are harmful depends considerably on the recycling process. Discarded electrical and electronic equipment needs to be professionally dismantled, components that contain harmful substances need to be removed and disposed of separately.
Swico Recycling is responsible for recycling electrical and electronic waste in Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein in line with the latest technological developments. Switzerland's disposal model is considered exemplary worldwide.
Poisonous substances in electronic waste and their effects
Electrical and electronic equipment contain many different substances. On the one hand they contain recoverables, i.e. reusable materials. Steel, aluminium and copper account for most of these. Some plastics can be reused too, and of course the precious metals in the equipment.
Some of the substances are hazardous if they come into contact with air, water or the soil. Furthermore, some substances are made up of a variety of components some of which are harmful, even carcinogenic. These include halogenated compounds such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in capacitors and transformers, PVC (polyvinyl chloride) in cable insulation, lithium in batteries, cadmium in toner cartridges and printing ink or selenium in photocopiers.