Separation of mixed WEEE plastics

1st October 2008

The aim of this project was to trial and assess some of the most promising separation techniques that emerged since WEEE materials started to be reprocessed in significant quantities in the UK.

Key findings
Separation of ABS from PS is of great interest to WEEE recyclers as it can improve the physical properties and value of both materials significantly
Further testing should be conducted with mixed WEEE plastic with NIR sorters in order to confirm whether the target of 95% ABS or PS in the product streams can be achieved in two or three passes by re-sorting the product fractions from the primary sort.



In 2008 WRAP commissioned Axion to deliver a number of trials of techniques for separating WEEE plastics, which build on the techniques identified by an earlier Defra report and focuses on new techniques in the market place. The separation of mixed WEEE plastics report summarises the conclusions of the project.

Read the executive summary >>


The methodology for the trials in this project is summarised below:

  • Trial host selection: once a technique was identified for a demonstration trial, a suitable trial host was selected. For some of the techniques covered by this project there were a number of companies/organisations that could potentially supply equipment and host the trial. A host was selected based on a number of factors, including agreement that the results of the trial could be published as well as the suitability of the equipment to be used for a particular trial.
  • Trial objectives: once a trial host was chosen, a set of objectives for the trial was agreed with the host.
  • Trial arrangements: arrangements for delivery of the trial were then agreed, including a date and duration.
  • Planning: a trial plan and risk assessment was prepared for each trial.
  • Feed material sample preparation; statistically meaningful samples of feed material were prepared for shipment to the trial site.
  • Trial delivery: Axion engineers attended every trial in order to ensure that it was conducted according to the trial plan and to ensure that samples were collected, recorded and properly labelled for shipment back to Axion.
  • Analysis and reporting; post-trial analysis was conducted on the samples in an analysis laboratory and the results recorded in the trial report.

Read the methodology >>
Download the full report >> 



Overall the project trialled ten potential techniques for separating materials produced during WEEE recycling. The trials showed that four of these techniques have both good commercial and technical potential for use in recycling WEEE. At the time of delivering the trials the other techniques did not demonstrate sufficient technical capability to be potentially useful to the WEEE recycling sector but this could change in future with further improvements to the separators and changes to material prices and landfill costs. 

Read the full conclusions >>

Where next?

Want to know more about re-use and recycling in sustainable electricals? Take a look at our reports, guides, tools and case studies for further information:

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