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Sci Total Environ. 2015 Aug 15;524-525:361-75. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.04.041. Epub 2015 Apr 23.

Mass balance and life cycle assessment of the waste electrical and electronic equipment management system implemented in Lombardia Region (Italy).

Author information

1
Politecnico di Milano, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Piazza L. da Vinci 32, 20133 Milano, Italy. Electronic address: laura.biganzoli@mail.polimi.it.
2
Politecnico di Milano, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Piazza L. da Vinci 32, 20133 Milano, Italy.

Abstract

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is one of the fastest growing waste streams in Europe, whose content of hazardous substances as well as of valuable materials makes the study of the different management options particularly interesting. The present study investigates the WEEE management system in Lombardia Region (Italy) in the year 2011 by applying the life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. An extensive collection of primary data was carried out to describe the main outputs and the energy consumptions of the treatment plants. Afterwards, the benefits and burdens associated with the treatment and recovery of each of the five categories in which WEEE is classified according to the Italian legislation (heaters and refrigerators - R1, large household appliances - R2, TV and monitors - R3, small household appliances - R4 and lighting equipment - R5) were evaluated. The mass balance of the treatment and recovery system of each of the five WEEE categories showed that steel and glass are the predominant streams of materials arising from the treatment; a non-negligible amount of plastic is also recovered, together with small amounts of precious metals. The LCA of the regional WEEE management system showed that the benefits associated with materials and energy recovery balance the burdens of the treatment processes, with the sole exception of two impact categories (human toxicity-cancer effects and freshwater ecotoxicity). The WEEE categories whose treatment and recovery resulted more beneficial for the environment and the human health are R3 and R5. The contribution analysis showed that overall the main benefits are associated with the recovery of metals, as well as of plastic and glass. Some suggestions for improving the performance of the system are given, as well as an indication for a more-in-depth analysis for the toxicity categories and a proposal for a new characterisation method for WEEE.

KEYWORDS:

LCA; Material recovery; WEEE

PMID:
25913003
DOI:
10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.04.041
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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