Page 10 - Material Flows of the Home Appliance Industry
P. 10

Executive Summary
Household appliances are universal and an integral part of our daily life. To produce and supply these products, large amounts of raw materials are used every year, and the installed products in homes represent even larger volumes of materials. The objective of this report is to provide statistical data on the flows and stocks of these materials and intends to give necessary background information to the ongoing discussion on the efficient use of materials and resources under the framework of the Circular Economy.
Annually, the household appliance industry provides EU citizens and households with 1 billion small and large home appliances. These appliances make our life easier by saving time, energy and water securing a clean and healthy home environment and making food stay fresh for longer. To produce these 1 billion appliances, the industry uses 6 million tonnes of raw materials, comprising of 3 million tonnes of steel and stainless steel, 1,1 million tonnes of plastics and more than half a million tonne of copper, aluminium and glass and concrete. While these volumes are significant, they are only a fraction of global material consumption. The European home appliance market
represents a share of global material consumption ranging from 0,2% for steel to 1,2% for copper, with the shares of other materials falling in between.
The relatively long lifetime of appliances means that the number of appliances installed and used in European households, ranging from electric toothbrushes to kettles and toasters to cookers, fridges and washing machines, is nearly 8 billion and many times higher than the annual sales figure. The 8 billion installed products contain more than 30 million tonnes of steel, 12 million tonnes of plastics, and a few million tonnes of non-ferrous metals and glass.
When appliances do finally come to the end of their useful life, they are discarded, collected and treated and the materials are recovered for a second life. In 2003 the European Union introduced producer responsibility obligations, requiring producers of appliances to take up the responsibility of environmental sound management of appliances at their end of life. Industry led recycling, mainly via take- back schemes set up by industry, is now well established and today collects and treats about 1,7 million tonnes annually across EU member states. But this volume
is nowhere near the estimated total of 5 million tonnes of discarded appliances annually. Other actors, operating outside the official industry channels, fill most of this gap, driven by the possibility to recover valuable metals from the discarded appliances. No complete data exists on this activity at EU level but if assuming that the UK, where this has been mapped, is representative for the European WEEE flows, at least 80% of all scrapped appliances are being collected for recycling either by industry or other actors. About 9% ends up in the waste bin and for the remaining 10%, the fate is not known.
Data about the quality of material recovery from the estimated 4 million tonnes of total collected appliances is only detailed for the volumes handled by industry take-back schemes. If assuming similar recovery quality for the full 4 million tonnes as for the 1,7 million collected by industry we could expect some 3,6 million tonnes of materials recovered, mostly steel, then plastic, then non-ferrous metals. However, data on overall recovery is highly uncertain, especially for plastics and would need further investigation.

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