ProSUM project to launch comprehensive WEEE data platform
The first Urban Mine Knowledge Data Platform is set to be launched this autumn as part of a project aiming to create a centralised and harmonised data network to improve the management of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), end-of-life vehicles, batteries and mining wastes.
The Data Platform will be unveiled by the Prospecting Secondary Materials in the Urban Mine and Mining Wastes (ProSUM) project at a special event in Brussels on 10 November 2017, presenting two years worth of data analysis carried out by around 50 expert organisations across different waste streams in the ‘urban mine’ – the re-use of valuable materials as opposed to sending them to landfill.
Based on underlying circular economy principles and a tendency towards closed-loop systems whereby as many materials are kept in the value-chain as possible, the initiative, led by the 33-organisation WEEE Forum, will provide access to primary and secondary raw mineral data throughout the value-chain to develop expanded recovery and collection of secondary raw materials in urban spaces.
Data Platform users will be able to perform specific searches, access maps, graphs and reports in one place, whereas before this data was collected by a myriad of different organisations, rendering information too diffuse to be able to compare or aggregate properly.
Commenting on the project, WEEE producer compliance scheme REPIC’s Environmental Affairs Manager and ProSUM Project Leader Sarah Downes said: “The database is expected to go into end-user testing after the summer, with any adjustments made prior to our information network day in November. Once up and running, this database could be used to improve the management of recycled materials by providing valuable insight into past trends and future arisings for products and materials.
“In a circular economy, today’s goods are tomorrow’s resources. Traditional linear take-make-dispose approaches are not sustainable. It can’t make environmental or economic sense to use energy and resources to dig stuff out of the ground and convert it to materials and products, only to dump it back into the ground again. As a collective industry we need to get better at recycling and improving our knowledge is a critical step.”
Re-use your WEEE
WEEE is a notoriously difficult form of waste to deal with, with around two million tonnes of electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market in the UK every year, with 1.53 million tonnes going to waste in 2015.
WEEE recycling processes are diverse and complex due to the variety of electronic products and materials used to make them, and failure to recycle items properly sees valuable materials, such as rare earth elements (REEs), which are very costly to extract, wasted and lost.
Furthermore, a recent study by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) – ‘Switched on to Value: Powering Business Change’ – showed that growing levels of consumption (predicted to rise by 19 per cent by 2020) are precipitating great environmental damage, with the total lifecycle impacts of electrical and electronic products purchased each year equivalent to around 196 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, and WRAP states that those same products use around 1.3 million terajoules of energy across their lives.
Due to the complex nature of WEEE recycling, the preferred treatment for WEEE is re-use, with consumer attitudes and trends pointing to a desire for opportunities to trade in unwanted electrical items, with many re-use and trade-in events springing up around the country.
For more information about the Urban Mine Knowledge Data Platform, visit the ProSUM project website.