Costa Rica Improves Its Capabilities to Treat Dangerous Components of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)

    Effort seeks to reduce risks to health and the environment, in compliance with national regulations and International Environmental Agreements

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    The country is preparing for a new WEEE-TON that includes workshops, talks and special awareness campaigns in educational centers in the country.Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) contains high-risk toxic components, especially heavy metals and brominated flame retardant substances.  Each year, approximately 10,000 tons of toxic substances are generated in this type of waste and the harmful effects on health and the environment have been demonstrated when it is disassembled by unauthorized people and exposed, affecting the central nervous system of children, and being carcinogenic even in small doses.

     It is crucial to identify, separate, decontaminate and treat these compounds at the national and international level in a professional manner and based on a knowledge base stipulated in the best available technologies and environmental practices of International Conventions such as Stockholm and Basel.

     After carrying out an analysis of facilities and infrastructure in 2022, the Ministry of Health identified facilities that required improvements in the management of WEEE, particularly in the management of hazardous fractions.  To address this challenge, a strategic collaboration was forged with eight authorized WEEE managers in the country, with whom pilot projects were implemented.

    Quantum Lifecycle Partners SRL, Valu Shred Costa Rica, the Materials Transfer and Technology Center of the Costa Rica Institute of Technology, Solirsa, Fortech, ZERO Waste, Green Costa Rica and HC Recycle have collaborated on actions.  Efforts have led to concrete achievements and advances in capacity development, for example, with plastic parts with additives, often brominated chemicals (BFRs), regulated by the Stockholm Convention as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). high risk. 

    Some results of this process:

    The country defined procedures to identify, as well as separate and eliminate plastic because it contains POPs, and managers are applying it.140 tons of WEEE plastic with POPs have been identified and separated, highlighting in the Latin American region.

     More than 100 tons have been destroyed by co-processing in the cement kiln of CementosProgreso Costa Rica (CEMPRO), another key participant, since the beginning of the pilots.

     Research on types of WEEE in Costa Rica and its POP content has allowed the study of 11 types, with the analysis of more than 50 devices from sampling batches of nearly 30 devices.

    Coordination achieved

     Coordination has been achieved with the National University and the University of Costa Rica, which link managers and academia on WEEE plastics.The completion of the Confirmatory Protocol for the Destruction of BFR COPs in the CEMPRO furnace is planned for this month.

     The country has made progress in fulfilling its obligations with the Stockholm and Basel Conventions.Adequate business models have been promoted to ensure long-term sustainability.

    Collaborating with the environment

     “With the separation diagram we have managed to identify more than 5-6 tons of brominated material, which has been removed from circulation, collaborating with the environment.  A second step comes, which consists of making a separation by type of plastic that will make the types of materials obtained more specific and can be placed in different markets worldwide, promoting the circular economy,” comments Mr. George Faeth, general manager. by Quantum Lifecycle Partners S.R.L.

     These achievements are achieved within the framework of the work of the WEEE Forum Technical Team, with the leadership of the Executive Committee for the Comprehensive Management of Electronic Waste (CEGIRE), and the support of the Electronic Waste Project in Latin America (PREAL) in Costa Rica .  The Directorate of Environmental Quality (DIGECA) of MINAE, the Chamber of the Plastics Industry (ACIPLAST) and the School of Chemical Engineering of the University of Costa Rica (UCR) also participate, along with the Polymer Laboratory of the National University (POLIUNA). ) who has supported us for two years now.

    Also, with the expectation of maximizing the use of WEEE materials and raising public awareness on this issue, during this month of October the last WEEE-TON of 2023 is being developed. The campaign has the support of Municipalities, Compliance Units, marketing companies , importers, institutions and above all consumers.

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