The number of electrical and electronic appliances and devices is rising while the operating life of individual products is declining. As a result, the volume of waste electrical and electronic equipment generated is constantly increasing. It is essential that such equipment be disposed of in an environmentally sound way to ensure that pollutants do not reach the environment and materials cycles are closed.
Everyday life is increasingly pervaded by electrical and electronic equipment. Due to the very rapid development of information technology, mobile telephones, computers and televisions quickly become obsolete. This increase in the volume of equipment produced generates growth in the demand for metal raw materials, on the one hand, and rise in the volumes of waste produced, on the other.
Electrical and electronic equipment mainly consists of metals, plastics and glass. It makes sense to recycle their material components as this closes material cycles. The appropriate disposal prevents heavy metals that are harmful to health (lead, cadmium, mercury) and other pollutants (e.g. PCBs) from entering the environment or products via recycling.
Electrical and electronic equipment should not be disposed of with household waste. Separate collection at source yields greater volumes of recyclable materials. Hence, it is more efficient and resource-conserving than recovery from slag after waste incineration.
Retailers, manufacturers and importers are obliged to accept used items of electrical and electronic equipment, in which they deal, free of charge. This obligation also applies if the customer does not purchase a new device or appliance. Consumers, in turn, are obliged to return equipment. The disposal of used equipment through municipal solid waste or bulk waste collections is prohibited. These regulations are contained in the Ordinance on the Return, Taking Back and Disposal of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (ORDEE). The following categories of electrically operated equipment are regulated by the ORDEE:
- Electronic entertainment equipment
- Office, information, communications technology equipment
- Refrigeration equipment
- Household equipment
- Tools (excluding large-scale, stationary industrial tools)
- Sport and leisure equipment and toys
- Luminaries and lighting control equipment
Specialised disposal companies dismantle the electrical and electronic equipment partly manually and than process it mechanically. Problematic components (mercury switches, PCB capacitators, batteries) are dismantled or separated and undergo special disposal. The remaining fragments are separated. Fractions that can undergo material recycling are produced in this way: plastics, iron, aluminium and tin, zinc, nickel and precious metal alloys.
The dismantling and separation of equipment into fractions is mainly carried out in Switzerland. The other processing stages are often carried out abroad because non-ferrous metals processing systems, in particular, are not available in Switzerland.
In accordance with the Ordinance on Movements of Waste (OMW), electrical and electronic equipment is classified as "other controlled waste". Waste disposal companies in Switzerland that accept such equipment require the authorisation of the canton in which the equipment is located. The export and import of such waste requires the authorisation of the FOEN. Export to states that are not members of the OECD or EU is prohibited.
Only functioning equipment that can be operated as intended and does not contain any banned substances (e.g. CFCs) qualifies as used or second-hand equipment.
Collection and disposal are financed on a private-sector bases and carried out by three organisations: SENS, SWICO Recycling and SLRS. Based on voluntary sectoral solutions, an advance recycling contribution is included in the purchase price of all ORDEE equipment.
The rare technical metals merit particular attention with regard to the more rational use of resources. Their recovery from certain electronic equipment poses a logistical and technical challenge, particularly in view of the low concentrations present. The FOEN is currently investigating whether the recovery of rare technical metals from electronic components in Switzerland makes sense in economic and ecological terms.
Projekt «EVA»: Elektronik – Verwertung – Altautos (PDF, 3 MB, 30.06.2018)Im Auftrag des BAFU
Informationsblatt VREG (PDF, 224 kB, 31.08.2006)Informationsblatt vom 1. Juni 2005 über die Vorschriften der VREG und die Bestimmungen betreffend der Preisbekanntgabe von vorgezogenen Entsorgungsbeiträge (VEG).
Verwertung seltener Metalle aus der Automobilelektronik in der Schweiz: Systemübersicht und Probenahmekonzept (PDF, 1 MB, 02.04.2012)Study commissioned by the FOEN, in German with summary in English
Strategien für die Rückgewinnung seltener Metalle - Ergebnisse eines Workshops mit ExpertInnen (PDF, 2 MB, 23.12.2011)Study commissioned by the FOEN, in German with summary in English
Seltene Metalle in Elektro- und Elektronikgeräten - Vorkommen und Rückgewinnungstechnologien (PDF, 811 kB, 23.12.2011)Study commissioned by the FOEN, in German with summary in English
Scarce technology metals - applications, criticalities and intervention options (PDF, 3 MB, 30.09.2011)Study commissioned by the FOEN
Last modification 24.03.2020