weee Collection Point
MODULE 01
The E-Waste Dilemma
Estimated time to complete the module:
45 minutes
Overview

Introduction

In this introductory module, you will learn what e-waste is and why it is a problem. You will also learn about the different categories of e-waste, the waste hierarchy, and e-waste composition.

Let's get started! First of all, what is WEEE? According to the definition from the European Directive, WEEE or e-waste refers to the waste of any equipment that is dependent on electric currents or batteries to work; basically anything that you need to plug in to a socket or needs batteries to function. Because there are so many different types of e-waste, there needed to be a bit more structure in defining the major categories, there are 6 categories:

 EU categories for
 Electric and Electronic Equipment (EEE)
Temperature exchange equipment
Screens and Monitors
Lamps
Large Household Appliances
Small Household Appliances
Small IT and Tele-
communication equipment
An important concept of waste management is the waste hierarchy which ranks waste management options according to what is best for the environment. The hierarchy first encourages the reuse of original equipment, followed by remanufacturing it, and finally, recycling it. Disposing e-waste equipment should be the last resort.

Infographic: the waste hierarchy

The current EU waste policy clarifies the waste hierarchy concept: ideally, waste should be prevented, and waste that cannot be prevented should be reused, recycled or recovered. The landfill should be our last resort. Waste legislation and EU Member State policy prioritize this hierarchy.

Prevention
Preparing for reuse
Recycling
Energy recovery
Disposal
Prevention includes measures taken before a substance, material or product has become waste that reduce the overall quantity of waste; its adverse impact; and the harmful substances within it.

Re-use simply means using products again to perform the functions they were built for, thus avoiding waste.

Recycling includes recovery (collection and sorting) of waste and reprocessing it into new products, materials or substances.

Energy recovery is the conversion of non-recyclable waste materials into usable heat, electricity, or fuel through a variety of processes including combustion, gasification, pyrolysis, anaerobic digestion, and landfill gas (LFG) recovery. This process is also called waste-to-energy (WTE).

Video: e-waste - Cleaning Up The World's Fastest-Growing Trash Problem

YouTube Video Block

Reading Material

E-Waste composition is very diverse. As a whole, WEEE contains a lot of different substances which fall under “hazardous” and “non-hazardous” categories. Broadly, e-waste consists of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, plastics, glass, wood and plywood, printed circuit boards, concrete and ceramics, rubber and other items. The elements with higher recycling rates are base metals like iron, aluminium and copper, followed by precious metals like silver and gold. Aside from palladium, the recycling rate of critical raw materials like neodymium, indium and cobalt is usually low.

Why is it important to recycle 
e-waste ?
Electrical equipment contains materials that can be used again (some appliances have a recovery ratio as high as 90%) to save natural resources.
E-waste may contain hazardous materials that can affect the environment and people’s health.
When discarded into mixed waste bins, electrical equipment cannot be sorted out and will end up in a landfill.

Downloads 

Quiz 

Congratulations! You just completed Module 1! Test what you have learned by taking a short quiz. Each question has one possible answer. Once you finish the quiz, you can move on to the next module.

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INVITE OTHERS TO LEARN ABOUT WEEE
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Which of the following cannot be classified as e-waste:

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Which one of the material compositions below make e-waste valuable ?

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How many categories of e-waste has been defined by the EU?

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Why is it important to make sure that e-waste does not end up in landfill/incineration?

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Approximately how many tons of e-waste was produced globally in 2019?

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What does recovery stands for?

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What are rare earth elements used for in the context of EEE?

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What is not considered to be a large household equipment:

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Downloads: Teaching materials for classroom use 

If you are a teacher and have decided to explore this topic with your classroom, then you have come to the right place! In this space, you will find ideas on how to prepare e-waste lessons. Additional suggestions for learning targets and classes have also been uploaded and they include:

  • Lesson timeline
  • Topics to be taught
  • Group exercises

The topics introduced here can intersect with chemistry, geography, and other science classes (e.g. environmental education).

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