Sorting WEEE

The second stage in the recycling of electrical and electronic equipment waste, before the treatment of the waste itself, sorting divides the tonnes of equipment collected into batches of uniform, identified recyclable waste. However, this word conceals a range of manual or automated processes, but always with a purpose, to facilitate the recovery of future waste. So, find out about the subtleties of dismantling and removing pollution from WEEE, and follow its progress, conveyor by conveyor, step by step, through Paprec Group factories.


Once brought in from their various WEEE collection points (such as recycling centres, where users can recycle their mobile phones), 19-tonne lorries with tailgates (filled with business-related, B-to-B WEEE) or grain bins (for small domestic appliance B-to-C WEEE) unload their electronic and electrical waste onto the factory floor, where it is picked up by a crane and taken to a dedicated area before being re-loaded into the pollution removal chain. Finally, most of it, since items such as computer servers and vending machines are too bulky to undergo standard processing, will be treated on the sidelines. But once they have been loaded, comes the moment when smaller products are separated into various categories (mainly small domestic appliances and IT waste, separated into servers, screens, printers/photocopiers, etc.). Waste management which, without a doubt, makes Paprec operators' jobs easier, as they start the work of dismantling the waste and removing pollution from it.

The removal of these unwanted elements and the recovery of recyclable materials is organised as follows: four operators are positioned in front of a belt, the speed of which they control, and take products from it, remove cables, cartridges, wood, vacuum-cleaner bags, and obviously used batteries, and also remove, among other remaining items, oil from fryers. Dismantling screens is a process that requires a special approach of its own. At the request of ecological organisations, and as required by regulations applying to waste, cathode ray tubes are no longer opened, so as to prevent any dispersal of the luminophors they contain (these are small particles of material that emit light, often coloured, under the impact of an electron beam) Operators have to recover plastics, metals and electronic boards from screens as well as the magnetic items and glass contained in cathode ray tubes, taking care not to break them. They are then placed in special crates for recovery by a specialist company, which, after washing it, incorporates the glass in cellular concrete. Other pollutants are also thrown into dedicated containers, and business-related and household WEEE, with the pollution removed, continues on its way to a machine called the smasher.


Born out of a need from the recycling company, launched on a path of innovation and intended to increase the quality of the company's services by clearly setting it apart from its competitors, the Smasher is a large rotating drum, whose job is effectively to dismantle WEEE and limit the losses of materials caused by standard grinders, designed to treat ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Typical items for recycling are placed in the Smasher and broken apart by the rotation of this gigantic washing machine, in which larger recyclable waste smashes against smaller pieces. A waste treatment technique that improves the recovery rate (by about 20 to 30%) but also limits energy consumption, the Smasher's drum requires a third of the power needed by a standard grinder to run at full speed. Housed in a sound-proof bunker and enthroned in the heart of an 8,000 m2. building, this exceptional machine now treats five tonnes of IT, electronic and electrical waste per hour.

So, thrown into the famous Smasher by shovel or dropped from a grab onto a belt that serves to feed the drum, are printers, modems, small waste IT equipment, small photocopiers, some terminals, batteries, accumulators and small domestic appliances. The automated disassembly machine does its job and waste sorting then proceeds normally, once the procedure has completed. Smashed and broken into fragments, the products are sent automatically to a vibrating screen that separates out the fines (extra-fine parts and other dust) from the rest of the waste. The entire flow is then placed on a magnetic conveyor (also called an Overband), the lower magnetised part of which captures any ferrous parts among the material. Centrifugal force and specially designed throats eject these fragments from the chain into a bin designed to receive them. The remaining WEEE, clean and ready to be processed one last time, is then sent to manual sorting tables.


There, ready to throw themselves into the final stage of this part of waste management, ten or so operators are assigned to the recovery of waste electrical and electronic fragments that can be recycled in Paprec D3E factories. Apart from recycling aluminium, this waste management stage allows stainless steel, miscellaneous metals, electronic boards and even armatures (an electronic device that receives induction from an inductor and converts it into electricity) to be picked out, which the group then sends to a WEEE recycling site. The recycling of used batteries also starts during this part of the process, since they are not ground up by the Smasher, instead being recovered and also sent to a waste treatment centre outside the company. Another specialist company is responsible for removing pollution by floating off any plastic parts remaining in the chain (the remainder having been isolated and sorted into concrete cells). This involves separating the plastic from the small copper wires and other polluting particles still present in the former WEEE.

This is how the sorting of household and business waste is achieved, before undergoing further treatment, a second life and perhaps recycling once more as electronic waste.
The recycling batteries and waste electrical and electronic equipment is a step-by-step process. Discover the different steps :


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