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Title: An investigation into the fate of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) at end-of-life to inform strategies for management
Author: Peagam, Richard
ISNI:       0000 0004 5349 5326
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2014
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Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) contains materials which can have a significant financial value, it can also be damaging to the environment if it is not treated properly at end-of-life. It is therefore essential to collect and treat EEE effectively at end-of-life to ensure scarce resources are not wasted, avoid the detrimental environmental impacts of improper treatment, mitigate the dwindling availability of virgin materials and to conserve potential value. The policy principle of Extended Producer Responsibility states that manufacturers are responsible for the units they put on the market at end-of-life. This is enacted in the EU through the WEEE Directive, implemented in 2003 and due to be revised in 2012 for implementation in 2014. WEEE collection rates, based on the mass sold in the two previous years (the measure used by the European Commission), reported under the WEEE Directive are low; around 30% for all household and 6% for non-household IT units (2009 figures). Accounting for WEEE and treating it correctly is not a straightforward waste management issue as there are incentives to divert it (from the financial value of the material it contains), which results in dispersal. This dispersal could account for some of the reported shortfall in collection. The goals of the thesis were to establish how the current approach to WEEE regulation reflected the reality of waste arising, through a detailed analysis of two established routes for the collection and treatment of end-of-life IT; the first being that for household equipment, which is monitored and reported under the WEEE Directive, and the second is for nonhousehold collections which is not. This thesis includes the only contemporary documentation of non-household WEEE collection and treatment. Findings indicated that while there was a financial value attached to WEEE, reuse was often a more attractive option than recycling but only for certain product types. The economic factors that make WEEE units either a potential resource or a burden were shown to be highly sensitive to several influences, which could present barriers to collection, treatment and regulation. While there are incentives to divert WEEE from the waste stream to extract the material value, this means that the WEEE that enters current collection networks often has had the value removed already, impacting the profitability of exploiting it. The current approach to WEEE regulation was shown not to reflect reality of waste arising, and the role of the manufacturer in collection and treatment at end-of-life is discussed extensively, arguing that directly linking producer responsibility costs to recycling is not feasible nor particularly useful. The goal of policy should be that all WEEE is accounted for at end-of-life, the environmental impact of disposal is minimal and the correct party has the cost attributed to them, and the thesis uses unique data to outline strategies to do this.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available