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Disposal of electronic waste

Please note: the articles have been translated automatically.

Why collect and recycle electronic devices separately

First of all: the best way to recycle your electronic device is to use it for as long as possible. New technologies are obviously more appealing, but little is known about the robustness and service life of the new devices (keyword: planned obsolescence). In addition, you at least already know the quirks of your old box and have learned to live with your mistakes.

In principle, there is certainly often still the possibility of a repair. But since working hours are expensive here in this country and imports are cheap, it often doesn’t pay off. In many cases, there is no contact in the vicinity who would take care of a corresponding repair.
If you want to replace the old device with the new one, please bring the old device to a suitable collection point. Why? => read on.

  1. No costs for end users: Nowadays, the disposal costs for old electronic devices are included with the manufacturer. This is obliged to pay fees to collection and recycling systems (ARA, ERA, ERP, Interseroh, etc.). Normally, there are no costs for those who want to dispose of the devices. In the case of electrical devices for private use, the manufacturer is also obliged to take them back. However, the customer can request the purchase of a new, comparable product.
  2. Valuable resources: those in our broken devices contain large amounts of aluminium, copper, iron and even gold. Only 5 percent of the energy is required for the recycling of aluminum compared to primary production. The iron is usually reused in steelmaking while the non-ferrous metals are used in the copper process. However, other valuable materials such as rare earths, tantalum, gallium and indium have global recycling rates of just under one percent.
  3. Removing pollutants: It’s not just about the profitable recycling of valuable materials. Because pollutants are removed separately, they can be disposed of separately in a more concentrated form, which means they are removed from our material cycle more quickly and easily.

Meaning of this symbol

This symbol should appear on all newly purchased electrical equipment or in accompanying documents. As expected, it states that the electronic device should not simply be disposed of in the dustbin together with other waste, but should be brought separately to an appropriate disposal point.


The current recycling practice essentially consists of three points and is carried out in a specialized recycling chain:

  1. manual removal of the pollutants
  2. mechanical crushing in several stages
  3. Separation of the shredded materials from each other

If old electrical devices are thermally recycled with other residual waste, it is no longer possible to remove the pollutants or to recycle many special materials. When incinerating the waste, the slag is usually only separated from ferrous metals with a magnet.

Dangerous substances in electronic devices

Devices with an EU declaration of conformity may only contain substances such as lead, mercury, chrome VI, as well as organic and inorganic pollutants (PBB, PBDE, DEHP, BBP, DBP or DIBP) up to a maximum of 0.1% (m/m) or cadmium max. 0.01% (m/m). With a few exceptions, all electrical devices in the EU must comply with this declaration of conformity.

Here is a list of the areas in which some of these substances are used:

screens and as an additive to solder (author’s note: practitioners who still know the classic solder miss this additive sorely).

in heavily loaded electrical contacts and in plastics as a pigment and stabilizer

Cadmium sulfite
phosphors from old television tubes

Device batteries (button cells), gas-discharge lamps such as fluorescent lamps and energy-saving lamps, backlighting of LCD screens

Polychlorinated biphenyls have been used as a component of heat transfer oils in transformers, rectifiers and capacitors. PCB-containing capacitors e.g. as a starting aid for electric motors). Electrolytic capacitors (ElKo) are mainly used today.

Older refrigerators and air conditioning systems (built before 1995) contain chlorofluorocarbons as refrigerants and propellants.

Insulation material and thermal protection used in areas exposed to high temperatures.

How do these pollutants affect us?

is a toxic heavy metal that gives off vapors even at room temperature. It is primarily the mercury vapors that are toxic.

most common triggers of contact allergies. (Author’s note: for this reason, silver earrings should be of good quality. Every 6th earring contains too much nickel)

brominated flame retardants
are possibly carcinogenic and can act in a similar way to hormones in the body.

are considered to be partly responsible for the damage to the ozone layer.

and certain mineral fibers can be carcinogenic.

Return and Collection Opportunities

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