With a new PfR initiative, the life of electronic waste will reach new heights

With a new PfR initiative, the life of electronic waste will reach new heights

Elretur launches a new Strategy for Preparation for Reuse (PfR), which can increase the reuse of white goods sevenfold. This will support Denmark’s ambitions for a strong circular economy.

When you drop a refrigerator off at the recycling depot, almost all the materials are recycled to make new products. But before that becomes a necessity, as many items as possible should be reused. This means that the item should be made to appear in the same shape, and serve the same function, as before. That is why Elretur is now launching a brand new PfR initiative that aims to ensure that Danish products achieve extended life cycles. And that means the products need to be prepared through inspection, cleaning or repair. Thus, no further pre-treatment is needed, as if the products are to take on new forms and functions. Elretur will now make all this possible with two ‘First Treatment plants’ – the first of their kind in Denmark.  

And the preparation of products for reuse requires, well, preparation, says CEO of Elretur, Morten Harboe-Jepsen:  

“We have been working for a long time to establish a new PfR strategy. There have been many actors and partners that have needed to be coordinated in order to achieve this. But we are now ready with a national plan for PfR. This will ensure that electronic waste gets far more mileage before it goes. It’s a quantum leap in waste sorting, as products might as well benefit consumers, and thus the climate, through reuse.” 

Will be possible to improve the reuse of refrigerators sevenfold

Danish consumers are replacing white goods like never before – often in connection with moving. And this means that, today, more than 24,500 units of white goods are collected for scrap. Of these, approx. 430 tonnes are reused with few repairs – or just a review. And here, according to Morten Harboe-Jepsen, Elretur expects to increase reuse sevenfold to approx. 3,500 tonnes using the new PfR plants:  

“Now, it will be possible to reuse, for example, seven times as many white goods as before. It really is a big step for our waste sector. In fact, the biggest in the last many years.”  

The plan for PfR has been prepared with significant insights from a number of projects, where Elretur has extracted reusable products from the WEEE (electrical and electronic waste) deposited at e.g. recycling depots and then had technicians repair and sell these on the Danish – or internal EU – market. Going forward, this sorting will take place at so-called First Treatment plants, where a structured approach to sorting provides an opportunity to control actors’ access to the WEEE and thus set minimum requirements for resold products in the form of quality, repair, warranty and traceability.  

The figure can be found here: https://elretur.dk/presse 

A treatment plant that will set new standards for reuse

Approx. one in ten white goods handed over for scrap could be reused with minimal repairs. And, in a time where there is a strong focus on the climate and CO2 savings, this is precisely one of the low-hanging fruits that Denmark can advantageously pick, says Morten Harboe-Jepsen. And that is exactly what Elretur will do now.  

“Our members have received the initiative very well. With the authorities, we have a common desire to contribute to greener production and ensure producer liability through a collective scheme that systematically enables products such as white goods to have an extended lifespan. And with our First Treatment plant, this will now be an opportunity to strengthen Denmark’s circular economy,” says Morten Harboe-Jepsen. 

Reuse is not recycling

Most people may not be aware that whether recycled products are recycled or reused makes a big difference. Many materials must be recycled due to their damaged condition, so the materials are broken down and then given a new shape and application. But with reuse, the product reappears in exactly the same form – and here there is a great climate gain to be reaped from that.  

Therefore, Henrik Egede, director of the Danish Association for Suppliers of Electrical Domestic Appliances, APPLiA, also estimates that the treatment plants will give many of the products discarded by Danes a new lease of life:  

“It works by the repairer, who acquires his products from the First Treatment plants, taking over the warranty obligations. Consumers will experience access to an orderly and controlled reuse market as an alternative to the current reuse market. I don’t know how many times I have bought something reused that has not worked properly. With this initiative, we are now making sure to change that and increase the life of many of the products. In short, you can trust that the reused products you buy work.” 

According to Henrik Egede, the manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that their products achieve this extended life cycle. The EU has determined the overall framework for waste regulation in the Waste Framework Directive, where i.a. Denmark is committed to achieving increased reuse by 2025. “As reuse is included in the inventory of recycling, it is therefore important that we report these quantities,” he continues.  

Responsibility in advance

Elretur, along with Stena Recycling and H.J. Hansen Recycling, are behind the plants, and both partners are experienced environmental treatment companies and major operators in the market. Together, they have decided to prepare for the establishment of First Treatment plants in eastern and western Denmark, respectively. The plants may be ready in 2022.  The investment is estimated to amount to millions, solving a task that goes beyond the responsibility imposed on producers through producer liability. The parties want to use their combined competences to assume additional social responsibility for the climatic and environmental impact of electrical and electronic products. 

“This is not a responsibility that we have been given. It is a task we undertake because it is the right thing to do and because we can see that we can get one step closer to the core of the circular economy by extending the life of the products,” says Morten Harboe-Jepsen, adding that Elretur is preparing accurate calculations of the CO2 savings that the new plant will provide. As a rule of thumb, the average CO2 saving from avoiding the purchase of a new product by reusing an existing product is around 70 per cent.


Producer liability

The requirement for manufacturers of electronics and/or batteries to collect their products after use is set out in the EU Directive on Waste from Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE). The industry must collect 65 per cent of products sold. More specifically, the collection rate should be 65% of the average weight of electronic and electrical products placed on the market during the previous three years in that member state or, alternatively, 85% by weight of WEEE generated in the territory of that member state. The directive can be found here: Directive 2012/19/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 July 2012 on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) Text with EEA relevance.


First Treatment plants

The First Treatment plants will be established by Elretur in collaboration with processing and operating firms Stena Recycling A/S in the east and H.J. Hansen Recycling in the west.  

See graphics at https://elretur.dk/presse/ with an overview of collection, sorting, repair, reuse, recycling and reclamation. 


Assessment of potential

• White goods, incl. fridge/freezer: the potential can be found in the report “Mapping of reusable white goods collected as WEEE at municipal recycling sites”, Econet for Elretur, August 2021, and is estimated at between 7 and 10 per cent of the collected products. In round figures, this corresponds to 60,000 devices, based on quantities collected in 2020. 

• Small electronics and screens can also be reused to a greater extent than today. Elretur estimates that 2–4 per cent of products will be able to be reused when the new plants come into operation. The immediate lower potential is primarily due to the fact that many of the valuable recyclable components in the smaller electronics products, such as printed circuit boards and chips, do not weigh very much but are quite valuable as resources to replace virginal metals. Thus, the potential for component reuse, i.e. electric motors, hard drives, printed circuit boards and the like, is not insignificant.


About Elretur

Elretur is Denmark’s largest collective scheme, representing many different industries and types of companies. We handle the producer liability for electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), as well as batteries, on behalf of our more than 850 members. 

Elretur is a non-profit organisation ensuring responsible and cost-effective collection and management of the electronics and battery waste delivered to the country’s recycling depots. So much so that Elretur recycles 84 per cent of the products collected. That is above the EU average of 80 per cent. The goal now is to go one step further and increase the reuse of the products. 

See more at www.elretur.dk


About DPA

DPA-System is an abbreviation of Danish Producer Liability System. 

All producers and importers covered by European environmental legislation on producer liability must report marketed, collected and environmentally treated quantities of electrical and electronic equipment, batteries and/or cars. This information is reported to the national producer liability register, which is administered by DPA-System. 

Based on the reported data, DPA-System annually compiles “WEEE, BAT and ELV Statistics”. Data and statics can be found at: https://www.dpa-system.dk/da/DPA/Statistik


More information

Morten Harboe-Jepsen, CEO Elretur, +45 4031 8187, mhj@elretur.dk