Urban Mining of E-waste

By Christian BlockLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

Luxembourg's inhabitants produce around 9.6 kg of e-waste every year. Improving the collection of sorted electrical and electronic equipment will become a challenge in the coming years. Behind this, an entire industry has specialised in the recovery of valuable raw materials.

A lift takes the container up to the dismantling line and unloads defective tools, kitchen appliances, hoovers and battery-operated toys onto a conveyor belt. It is noisy. Every now and then you can't hear what you're saying because there's hammering, drilling and screwing going on somewhere. Yet on this Friday it is still comparatively quiet, most of the positions are not occupied. 17 people normally work in the dismantling hall at Lamesch-PreZero.

Those who stand at the conveyor belt here know their hand movements. Cables are cut from mixers and radios. Everything that can be removed directly without tools, cannot be recycled or later needs special treatment comes out: batteries, printer cartridges, hoover bags.

More complex objects or objects that require more effort to dismantle are moved on to the tables. Here workers take apart computers or microwaves: mainboard batteries, ram memory, drives, CPUs. According to Frédéric Guichard, director of the non-hazardous waste department, recycling the processors as such does not make sense because of the rapid technological development. The situation is different with ram memories, which are also not obsolete because they do not contain any personal data. A drill, however, ensures that hard drives can never be read. The protection of personal data still applies here.

Statistically, the country's inhabitants generate around 9.6 kg of e-waste per capita every year. In 2019 alone, the Grand Duchy generated a mountain of just over 6,300 tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). Around 1,000 tonnes of this, including problematic appliances such as refrigerators, heat pump dryers, oil radiators or neon tubes, will be disposed of via the SuperDrecksKëscht.

The majority of Luxembourg's e-waste ends up in Bettembourg. Sooner or later, it finds its way there via a recycling or resource centres, as many call themselves today. Some of it also comes from the trade itself. This is because shops are required by law to take back an old appliance when buying a comparable new product. According to the law, consumers can even return small defective electrical appliances (with external dimensions of less than 25 cm) free of charge and without an obligation to buy in retail shops with an area of more than 400m². If, for example, a bank is replacing hundreds of computers, the discarded equipment can also be transported directly to the Wolser industrial zone via a waste collection company.

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