Elaboration of the conditions to build up a reuse-cycle network for WEEE

Selection of electrical and electronic equipment disposed as waste back into a reuse-cycle, bulding up an operational network between social enterprises, linking up and improving the workflows necessary for this purpose and the creation of a second-hand-shop for electrical an electronic equipment.

Short Description




Closing the loop of waste electrical and electronic equipment The current project analysed the reusability of various waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) which are collected separately by the Viennese Municipality. The project was carried out by the social economy enterprise "Dismantling and Recycling Centre D.R.Z" (D.R.Z) in cooperation with the "Institute of Waste Management of the BOKU-University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences" (ABF-BOKU).

The aim of the project was to determine potentials for optimization as well as general frameworks by means of existing experiences in this field, to increase the overall share in devices disposed at the end of utilisation by the consumers. These devices could be reused, by selection from the WEEE flow, followed by maintenance and active marketing measures for second-hand devices.

In cooperation with MA48, D.R.Z obtains the WEEE from three waste disposal sites in Vienna. These devices are either reused after various processes of maintenance and commercialisation or manually dismantled and pretreated. The actual project analysed the devices handled in D.R.Z according to the collection categories "big electrical and electronic appliances" and "small electrical and electronic appliances". Devices of other collection categories have not been analysed.

One of the projects central targets was to get results concerning the question if it makes sense to select waste electrical and electronic equipment from the municipal collection of WEEE for reutilisation. The results of the project shown in chapters 4 to 6 proof that this question can definitely be answered positively,

  • if the collection system is adapted for reutilisation, particularly that the collected devices are handled with care, as in the case of the actual pilot initiative.
  • if the selection of devices, especially for small electrical and electronic appliances, is manpowered adequately and equipped with fitting infrastructure - in particular, sufficient room and zoned adequately from the maintenance and dismantling department.

All in all, the selection of devices could be identified as one of the key processes to increase the share of reusable devices in the WEEE flow. Primarily this process needs a socialcommunicative individual who

  • views the working process of selection as an in-house service for the maintenance department
  • has the expertise and authority to decide the selection of potentially reusable devices based on continuous updated professional and technical know-how combined with the knowledge of second-hand market demand and is aware of customer preferences
  • has the advisory skills to inform the maintenance department consistently about the spectrum of devices found in the WEEE flow, as well as the changes in the composition of devices.

An important aspect for the reutilisation of waste electrical and electronic equipment is a physically acceptable condition, besides perfect operability. A survey conducted in the context of the project proofed only 20% of the big electrical and electronic household appliances (e.g. washing machine) collected at the waste disposal site, to be in a sound physical condition. Small electrical and electronic household appliances (e.g. coffee machine), information and telecommunication devices (e.g. computer) and home entertainment equipment (e.g. video cassette recorder) proofed 60% to be in good shape. As these devices contain all essential accessories, they fulfill the criteria to be sold as second-hand goods after a check of their operational reliability.

In this regard, alternative take-back systems could lead to a bigger share in physically sound devices. It would be possible to select reusable devices already at the waste disposal site, for which human resources need to be provided for each served waste disposal site, expenses which can be justified only with a certain sales volume of reutilisation. Further options would be a take-back system in combination with a shop structure or a frequent pick-up service especially for big reusable devices at the collection site.

Interviews carried out at waste disposal sites, showed repeatedly that, when persons start to live together, often results in a duplication of the equipment of electrical and electronic appliances in one household. While small appliances are often kept as replacements or are easily passed on to friends, big electrical and electronic appliances often cause problems due to restricted space. These appliances are less easily passed on as many households already contain a working dish washer, washing machine or refrigerator and have no need to replace them at that time. To transfer such big appliances beyond the immediate circle of friends was said to be too labour-intensive and time-consuming for the person concerned. The redundant big electrical and electronic appliances are then often disposed of immediately, although operating properly or, if possible, are stored (e.g. attic, cellar, tool shed....) and are disposed of at a later date. Then however these devices are not working (properly) any more (e.g. damages in the electronics due to damp or mechanical damages and rust, due to improper storage) making reuse impossible. In addition, the devices are not up-to-date in terms of technology, function, security and design. By informing the population that such well working big electrical and electronic appliances can easily be dispensed at a second-hand shop for a charity purpose, more appliances may be obtained that comply with the requirements for reutilisation without restrictions. To provide a possible additional incentive for disposal of fully functional devices, the negotiation of a fixed amount from a charitable donation could be considered - along the lines of the Austrian collection campaign for mobile phones (Ö3 Wundertüte).

The already established infrastructure in both businesses, D.R.Z and "Repair and Service Centre R.U.S.Z" (R.U.S.Z), should be maintained for the commercialisation of the devices but be expanded by a shop structure. R.U.S.Z´s secondhand shop, where second-hand devices are offered for sale right in the place where they had been maintained and repaired, attracts quite a number of customers.

These could be important disseminators for a future shop structure where devices are sold but not maintained. On the other hand such a shop structure could be easily carried on in connection with a take-back-system. By accepting damaged but still worth to be repaired devices in one shop the share in physically undamaged devices could considerably be increased.

Aside the commercialisation via internet should be expanded. Especially used computer equipment, above all PC components and assembled computers can best be sold via an internet shop. All in all, it appears that the supply of second-hand devices turns to different target groups (from home constructor and aficionado to the ebay-user) who have to be addressed by various marketing strategies. A combination of supply in a repair workshop, internet and shop commercialisation should achieve the best results.

The market analysis conducted in the context of the project resulted in an existing demand for second-hand devices but varies between the different models. Almost 47% of the interviewees can imagine buying a second-hand device, already one third of the respondents have bought a second-hand device before. The competitor analysis reveals that a number of suppliers of second-hand devices exist in Vienna but second-hand electronics constitute just a small part of their assortment of goods.

The characteristics of the D.R.Z and R.U.S.Z are

  • to have a comparatively low price approach to a high number of various reusable devices via the WEEE collection
  • to possess know-how acquired over many years of maintaining various totallydifferent types of devices
  • to give the customer the feeling he is making a positive, social contribution by the purchase
  • to be in charge of various sales and marketing strategies
  • to possess already a high degree of popularity

These characteristics express strengths which cannot be achieved by any other supplier without enormous effort.

Project Partners

Project leader

Verband Wiener Volksbildung
Beschäftigungsinitiative Demontage- und Recycling-Zentrum D.R.Z

DI Markus Spitzbart
Vogtgasse 29, 1140 Wien
Tel.: +43 1 982 16 48
Fax: +43 1 982 16 48 - 18
E-Mail.: office@drz-wien.at
Internet: www.drz-wien.at, www.trashdesign.at

Anton Stengeli

Project partners