Critical metals are recovered on only a small scale during the recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in Europe, according to a report published by the Copenhagen Resource Institute. No more than 5 per cent of the critical metal content of mobile telephones is recovered. For flat screens and laptops as well as batteries for mobile telephones and laptop computers, the maximum recycling efficiency achieved stood at 15 per cent. PCs were the only WEEE stream for which a higher rate of recovery, 40 per cent, could be reached, according to the study, which examined the recovery efficiency for 13 metals. The amount of these metals contained in the other WEEE streams was considered too insignificant to warrant detailed study.
The Danish researchers estimated that the total amount of critical metals contained in the equipment streams included in the study stood at around 2,000 tonnes for 2008. Some 85 per cent of the total was believed to be cobalt. However, less than a tenth of the critical metals contained in the WEEE were recovered. Cobalt made up the lion's share of the recycled material accounting for 90 per cent of the total. Moreover, small amounts of silver, gold, palladium, ruthenium and tellurium were also recovered.