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UK worst offender in Europe for electronic waste exports

“Electronic waste is deemed a hazardous waste by the EU due to toxic parts containing substances such as mercury, lead and flame retardants. Exports of this type of waste to non-OECD and non-EU countries are illegal under EU law.”

It goes without saying that exporting criminals must be hit hard under national law of respective EU member states.

Due to missing or inappropriate recycling of electronic circuit boards valuable resources above 60% get lost. Besides the growing environmental burden, especially the loss of strategic technology metals like copper, silver and gold as well as critical raw materials like palladium, germanium and tantalum is a real issue. One of the main problems is the decomposition of the composite structure of electronic circuit boards. Due to the unrecyclable composite material up to now in use the separation of metals and organic content is problematic. That’s why metal recycling of printed circuit boards (PCBs) is a real challenge in terms of carbon footprint and costs. It is evident that global sustainability requires a holistic approach containing innovative composite materials and production processes in the field of electronics industry as well as environmentally friendly disposal and recycling strategies.

How can future e-waste problem be tackled at grass-roots level? Promising sustainable solutions are being developed within pan-EU consortia. Key is to make the entire PCB value chain go circular.

Support from the European Commission could accelerate that transition.