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European manufacturers and recyclers to develop recycling specifications

The household appliance industry, electronic recyclers, and operators of electrical and electronic take-back schemes in Europe have joined forces to develop recycling specifications for end-of-life refrigerators and freezers containing hydrocarbons.

Aimed at ensuring safety and the proper handling and recycling of fridges and freezers containing hydrocarbons, the move has been prompted by ambiguity on the matter in the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive.

The WEEE Directive does not specify how appliances containing hydrocarbons should be managed in the recycling process, although hydrocarbons such as cyclopentane are increasingly used in fridges, freezers and other equipment with cooling circuits. The hydrocarbons in question do not deplete the ozone layer but are flammable.

The UK’s Recycling Electrical Producers’ Industry Consortium (REPIC) is part of the WEEE Forum – the association of collective WEEE take-back systems in Europe – involved in creating the specifications.

REPIC chief executive Dr Phil Morton explained that the WEEE Forum, the European committee of household appliance manufacturers (CECED) and the European Electronics Recyclers Associations (EERA) are all collaborating to decide how best to design standards that fit across Europe, for the safest, most efficient and environmentally friendly method of recycling hydrocarbon-containing equipment.

Morton said of the initiative: “It’s all about solving a problem, as there are no agreed standards. The WEEE directive says remnant fluids but doesn’t specify what these are. We want to remove this ambiguity – across Europe.”

As to when the standards would be available Morton said there was still “on-going work” to be done and that they were “not there yet”.

Meanwhile the WEEE Forum is growing, with six new take-back schemes from the Czech Republic, Greece and Hungary joining at its recent General Assembly. It now has 30 members and covers 20 European countries.

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