Economics of End-of-Life Materials Recovery: A Study of Small Appliances and Computer Devices in Portugal
Author(s)Santos, Eduardo; Ferrão, Paulo; Margarido, Fernanda; Ford, Patrick Benjamin; Van Vliet, Krystyn J; Olivetti, Elsa A.; ... Show more Show less
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The challenges brought on by the increasing complexity of electronic products, and the criticality of the materials these devices contain, present an opportunity for maximizing the economic and societal benefits derived from recovery and recycling. Small appliances and computer devices (SACD), including mobile phones, contain significant amounts of precious metals including gold and platinum, the present value of which should serve as a key economic driver for many recycling decisions. However, a detailed analysis is required to estimate the economic value that is unrealized by incomplete recovery of these and other materials, and to ascertain how such value could be reinvested to improve recovery processes. We present a dynamic product flow analysis for SACD throughout Portugal, a European Union member, including annual data detailing product sales and industrial-scale preprocessing data for recovery of specific materials from devices. We employ preprocessing facility and metals pricing data to identify losses, and develop an economic framework around the value of recycling including uncertainty. We show that significant economic losses occur during preprocessing (over $70 M USD unrecovered in computers and mobile phones, 2006–2014) due to operations that fail to target high value materials, and characterize preprocessing operations according to material recovery and total costs.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Biological Engineering; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Environmental Science & Technology
American Chemical Society (ACS)
Ford, Patrick, Eduardo Santos, Paulo Ferrão, Fernanda Margarido, Krystyn J. Van Vliet, and Elsa Olivetti. “Economics of End-of-Life Materials Recovery: A Study of Small Appliances and Computer Devices in Portugal.” Environmental Science & Technology 50, no. 9 (May 3, 2016): 4854–4862.
Author's final manuscript