ELECTROVALUE - Electric and electronic eco-assembly alternatives for the valorisation of the end-of-life products in the recycling market

LIFE07 ENV/P/000639

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Marco ESTRELA
Tel: +351 214 229 005
Fax: +351 214 229 018
Email: maestrela@isq.pt

Project description:


Europe produces approximately 10.3 million tonnes/year of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), around a quarter of the world's total, and the amount is predicted to rise to 12.3 million tonnes/year by 2020. Currently just 25% of Europe´s medium-sized household appliances and 40% of larger appliances are collected for salvage and recycling, while the figure for small appliances is close to zero. This highlights the scale of potential opportunities for recovering secondary raw materials. In Europe, the use of virgin raw materials in the electronic equipment manufacturing is still close to 100%. Being a material-intensive manufacturing sector, the impact on natural resource depletion and climate change is high. This is incompatible with European policies, in particular, those associated with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive: 2012/19/EU).


The goal of the ELECTROVALUE project was to assist the competitiveness of European SMEs through the adoption of sustainable waste management approaches. The project aimed, in particular, to help recover more high-value components from Printed Circuit Board (PCB) assembly, and reuse them in other products. To achieve this, the project created a pilot disassembly/recovery centre for WEEE; and proposed to integrate relevant standards within a user-friendly support package designed for SMEs, to develop alternative cost-effective management tools and environmental products; to promote added-value business opportunities for waste recyclers; and to evaluate the economic and energy impacts of sustainable component recovery using Life Cycle Analysis (LCA).


The ELECTROVALUE project demonstrated improvements in the reuse and recycling of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), and promoted products that incorporate components derived from WEEE. The project, in particular, demonstrated the recovery and reuse of high-value electronic components from Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs). The project’s case study focused on 27 components from PCBs.

A pilot-scale disassembly centre was set-up in the recycling facilities of associated beneficiary INTERECYCLING in Santiago de Besteiros (Portugal). The project team targeted small components for recovery, improved some de-soldering techniques to successfully remove the components, and sorted them in an appropriate way. The project assembled fully-functioning refurbished circuit boards and assessed their reliability. At the pilot disassembly centre, staff were trained by the project in the new skills required. Conventional and e-training courses were developed to teach new skills to disassembly centre staff, which could potentially lead to new job opportunities in the sector.

From an economic perspective, the main conclusion of the project’s cost-benefit analysis was that the reuse of some components can be economically viable, especially for those with high value or that are no longer produced; 8 of the 27 components analysed showed a favourable economic advantage. These eight component types demonstrated cost reductions in relation to the selling price of new components between 17% and 96%. The reuse and resale of these eight types of second-hand but reliable components represent a business strategy with a significant potential for success. If the recovered components are sold in large quantities, SMEs may be a good target market. However, the labour costs for de-soldering were found to be decisive, especially when the cost of new components is still very cheap. The main lessons learnt for the future are that the cost of component recovery makes it necessary to improve methods of recovery, to reduce the high labour costs involved. To make the reuse of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) components a viable option it is also necessary to develop a strong EEE sector. Finally, specific standards should be developed for reuse components to give warranties to the electronic equipment made with reused components.

Concerning the environmental impact, the project’s analysis showed that environmental benefits can be achieved, depending on the amount of EEE available on the market each year and the corresponding WEEE produced. The project concluded from the LCA analysis that the reuse of electronic components decreases environmental impacts between 12% (considering 25% of components reused) and 36% (considering 75% of components reused). Increasing the reuse of components helps to reduce the amount of WEEE landfilled.

Indirect environmental benefits occur as the amount of reuse increases, especially for life cycle stages having a high consumption of raw materials, as the reuse of components reduces the need for raw materials, namely precious metals and rare earth elements that are associated with environmentally-damaging mining operations.

The project developed a management tool that provides electronic waste assemblers and recyclers with information concerning European directives, legislation, guidelines for compliance, and waste management alternatives. It also incorporates a photo library containing data on standard and reused components. The tool helps companies to implement best practice in waste management and in the reuse of end-of-life product components.

Another key added-value aspect of the project was the innovative evaluation and definition of the main end-of-life EEE products and components, and the demonstration of the reliability of their reuse in new products. The tool will allow SMEs to compare products in terms of the eco-efficiency, lifespan and reliability of their components. It therefore brings socio-economic benefits through the identification of new business opportunities.

The project was designed to help implement the WEEE Directive, which established goals for rates of recovery, reused and recycled, and the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive (2002/95/EC), which brought additional industrial goals relating to lead and alternative lead-free components into market considerations for electronics production. Standards from these directives were integrated into the project’s management tool.

In all, the replicability potential of the project results (e.g. studies, technical documents and the management tool) is very high, as they would be helpful to both EEE recyclers and manufacturing companies in any country.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Environmental management - Life Cycle Assessment-Management
Waste - Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)


electrical industry‚  life-cycle management‚  information system‚  waste management

Target EU Legislation

  • Waste
  • Directive 2012/19 - Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) (04.07.2012)

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Instituto de Soldadura e Qualidade
Type of organisation Research institution
Description The Instituto de Soldadura e Qualidade (ISQ) is a private and independent company providing inspection, testing, training and technical consultancy.
Partners INTERECYCLING, Portugal EMPLACE, Portugal ANIMEE, Portugal APEMETA, Portugal


Project reference LIFE07 ENV/P/000639
Duration 01-JAN-2009 to 31-MAR -2012
Total budget 596,923.00 €
EU contribution 297,959.00 €
Project location Lisboa e vale do Tejo(Portugal)


Read more:

Leaflet "Electric and Electronic Eco-assembly Alternative ...
Newsletter Bi-Annual Newsletter - Issue 1 - October 2009 (EN)
Project web site Project's website (PT/EN)
Publication: Case study "Electrovalue : Electric and Electronic Eco-assemb ...
Publication: Layman report Layman report (Portuguese version)
Publication: Technical report Project's Final technical report
Publication: Technical report "Electrovalue : Electric and Electronic Eco-assemb ...
Publication: Technical report "Electrovalue : Electric and Electronic Eco-Assemb ...
Publication: Technical report "Electrovalue : Electric and Electronic Eco-assemb ...


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version