Navigation path

Electric and Electronic Equipment

 

The Raw Materials Information System supports and complements actions to reuse, recycle and recover materials in specific industry sectors, such as electronic devices, household appliances, and, more generally, Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE).

While factsheets for a number of EEE (e.g. desktop computers, tablets, enterprise servers, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, dishwashers, electronic displays, etc.) is under development, an exemplary factsheet for notebook computers is provided hereinafter, including:

  • Market share and lifetime expectancy,
  • Recycling,
  • Repair and Reuse,
  • Bill of materials and current recovery of Secondary Raw Materials (SRMs),
  • Potential recovery of SRMs thanks to ecodesign.

 

Product factsheet: notebook computer

Notebook computers are computer designed specifically for portability and to be operated for extended periods of time either with or without a direct connection to a power source. Notebook computers utilise an integrated display, with a viewable diagonal screen size of at least 22.86 cm (9 inches), and are capable of operation on an integrated battery or other portable power source (source: Preparatory study on the Review of Regulation 617/2013 (Lot 3), Computers and Computer Servers, Task 1 report, Scope).

Disassembly_of_a_notebook_computer.jpg

Figure 1. Disassembly of a notebook computer © manifeesto

 

Market share and lifetime expectancy

The estimated annual sales of notebook computers in EU amount to almost 42 million units per year. According to elaborations made by Risk & Policy Analysts Limited (2014) and values reported by Statista, the share of the EU market can be estimated to be in the range 34-37% of global notebook sales. The expected lifetime for this product is 5 years.

Estimated_market_share_of_notebook_computers_in_2020_annual_sales.png

Figure 2. Estimated_market_share_of_notebook_computers_in_2020_annual_sales.png

 

Recycling

End-of-life (EoL) operators combine different dismantling and separation methods to waste notebook computers. Generally, processes for the recycling of computers are based on two scenarios:

  • Scenario 1 (mechanical treatment after depollution) is based on mechanical crushing and sorting. After the removal of the battery and display panel, the entire device is treated in a medium shredder for further separation of the different fractions;
  • Scenario 2 (medium-depth manual dismantling) is based on manual medium-depth dismantling. After the removal of the battery and display panel, certain high value components are manually recovered from the notebook, such as:
    • the main board (amongst others CPU, RAM and graphic chip) and other PCBs, directly forwarded to the copper smelter;
    • mass storage systems (e.g. hard disc drives – HDD – or solid state drives – SSD) and optical disc drives, to be forwarded to a medium shredder for further separation of iron, aluminium, magnets and circuit board fractions.

Intermediate situations can be implemented as well. Overall, a material-efficient recycling of notebooks assumes that the extraction of the battery and the display panel is done manually, and that further manual sorting (e.g. removal of PCBs, mass storage units etc.). Thereafter, the rest of the notebook body goes then to a shredder for further separation of fractions (Gabriel, 2015; Vannieuwenhuyse, 2016).

The display panel is usually further dismantled manually or semi-automatically into fractions and components, e.g. iron and plastic fractions, and liquid-crystal display (LCD) panel and circuit board fraction. At present, LCD panels are either landfilled or stored for future treatments. Efficient recycling technologies for display panel  are still in an early development stage or under development: in these pilot processes the polarisation foils are removed from the LCD panel, the LCD panel is mechanically broken down and Indium (In) is mobilized through hydrometallurgical treatment (Rasenack and Goldmann, 2014; Rotter et al., 2012).

Remaining fractions are further processed using interim and final treatment technologies.

 

Repair and reuse

An Eurobarometer survey observed that, when a main failure occurs, 77 % of EU citizens would rather repair and reuse their goods, rather than buy new ones. Concerning notebook computers, the rate of failure increases each year a device is in use, ranging from 11 % failing in the first year to more than 20 % failing by year five. Moreover, by the end of year five, 61 % of notebooks had a failure that will require repair (IDC, 2016). The ease of repair, or upgrade, is important in order to prolong the operational life of the devices and of contained raw materials (by enhancing repair and refurbishing), and avoid environmental impacts due to the manufacturing of a new device and the disposal of electronic waste.

Interviews with repair and reuse operator of professional business notebooks revealed that the main frequent failures in notebooks involve: displays, keyboards, mass memory systems, batteries, external power supplies, memories, fans, connectors (USB, network) and optical plastic elements such as small covers and outer frames (Private communications, 2017). When possible, these components are frequently replaced by repair and reuse operators, especially in case of business devices. However, the trend to build and sell more integrated devices such as subnotebooks or tablets (see section 2.1), makes repair or upgrade more difficult.

 

Bill of materials and current recovery of Secondary Raw Materials

The average bill of materials for notebook computers (Figure 3), can be retrieved by Talens Peiró et al. (2016b) with mass of battery as in Clemm et al. (2016). The majority of plastic components are made of plastic blends with flame retardants or by polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA). Excluding the printed circuit boards (PCBs), metals are present as aluminium, magnesium alloy and steel. A breakdown of PCB types and other lighter components is provided in Figure 4 and Figure 5, respectively.

Figure 3. Bill of materials for notebook, as in Talens Peiró et al. (2016b) with mass of battery as in Clemm et al. (2016).

Figure 3. Bill of materials for notebook, as in Talens Peiró et al. (2016b) with mass of battery as in Clemm et al. (2016).

Figure 4. Printed Circuit Boards composition

Figure 4. Printed Circuit Boards composition

 

Figure 5. Other components in notebooks

Figure 5. Other components in notebooks

 

Figure 6 represents the recycling rates for different materials and components in a notebook computer.

Figure 6. Recycling rates for different materials in notebook computers (JRC elaborations based on (Chancerel and Marwede, 2016))

Figure 6. Recycling rates for different materials in notebook computers (JRC elaborations based on (Chancerel and Marwede, 2016))

 

Material in PCB

Average composition

Recycling rate

Material in PCB

Average composition

Recycling rate

Ag

0.11%

95%

Pd

0.02%

95%

Al

5.00%

0%

Sn

1.60%

75%

As

0.003%

0%

Sr

0.04%

0%

Au

0.02%

95%

Ta

0.58%

0%

Ba

0.56%

0%

Zn

1.60%

50%

Be

0.01%

0%

Glass:

 

 

Bi

0.01%

80%

  • SiO2

18%

0%

Cd

0.0001%

0%

  • B2O3

3%

0%

Cl

0.10%

0%

  • K2O

0.20%

0%

Co

0.01%

0%

  • CaO

6%

0%

Cr

0.35%

0%

  • MgO

0.35%

0%

Cu

19%

95%

  • NaO

0.20%

0%

Fe

4%

0%

Plastics:

 

 

Ga

0.001%

0%

  • C

30%

0%

Mn

0.75%

0%

  • Br

3.50%

50%

Ni

0.60%

90%

  • Sb

0.30%

80%

Pb

0.98%

80%

Others

3.11%

 

Table 2. Average composition of printed circuit boards in notebooks and average recycling rates of different materials from PCBs separated for recycling (JRC elaborations based on (Chancerel and Marwede, 2016))

 

Potential added recovery of Secondary Raw Materials thanks to ecodesign

Possible strategies to improve the ease of dismantling of notebook computers are listed hereinafter:

  • Provision of information to facilitate computer dismantling
  • Marking of plastic components
  • Declaration of Flame retardants (FRs) content
  • Application of battery marks to classify batteries according to their chemistries

These actions aim at facilitating the extraction and the identification of different components and materials, and eventually enhance recyclability of notebooks.

According to (BIO by Deloitte, 2015), in 2012:

  • 10.9 t of palladium were recycled in the EU28;
  • 6,300 t of cobalt were recycled in the EU28;
  • 14 t of neodymium were recycled in the EU28;
  • 16 t of lithium were recycled in the EU28.

The analysed actions would grant an additional recycling of:

  • about 0.2 – 0.5 t/year of palladium, equivalent to 1.8 – 4.7% of the current recycling mass;
  • about 74.8 – 144.5 t/year of cobalt, equivalent to 1.2 –2.3% of the current recycling mass;
  • about 1.9 – 7 t/year of neodymium, equivalent to 13.5 – 49.7% of the current recycling mass;
  • about 8.7 – 16.8 t/year of lithium, equivalent to 50 – 100% of the current recycling mass.

Finally, the proposed actions will also contribute to increase the amounts of recycled plastics (8-10 kt of additional plastics), copper (318 - 763 t) and precious metals (0.2 - 0.5 t of gold; 0.2 - 0.5 t of palladium; 2.6 – 8.5 t of silver).

 

Data sources and references