Inner values:
What's actually inside an electrical appliance?

What it looks like inside an electrical or electronic appliance is a mystery to many of us. The main thing is that the appliance works! But it is worth taking a look under the casing of the appliance, because a closer look reveals a wide variety of components. Among them are many recyclable materials that can be kept in the cycle if the appliances are disposed of properly. Other components pose a special challenge for recycling. Some of them can even be harmful if they are not disposed of professionally.

But what is actually inside an electrical appliance? To find out, we have taken apart four different appliances and broken them down into their individual components: a hand blender, a cordless screwdriver, a coffee machine and a robot hoover. 

The hand blender

Let's start with the smallest of the appliances, the hand blender, which weighs less than a kilogram. This practical kitchen helper turns out to be a true recycling champion. Over 99% of the appliance can be reused - no other appliance has such a high recycling rate. The recyclable materials it contains include various metals such as iron, aluminium, chrome steel and brass. However, recyclable plastics make up the largest share. When recycling, special attention must be paid to the electric motor. This is separated from the appliances and processed separately in the further recycling process by specialised companies. On the one hand, any pollutants can be safely removed. At the same time, it is possible to extract even more valuable materials from the electric motors with the help of special processes.

The cordless screwdriver 

The recycling rate for cordless screwdrivers is lower, at 67.7%. This is due to the fact that the proportion of non-recyclable plastic in cordless screwdrivers is high. Non-recyclable plastic is used as so-called refuse-derived fuel (RDF) in cement plants and waste incineration plants to generate energy (electricity, heat). The copper cables contained in the cordless screwdriver are also collected separately. The cable sheath is removed by splicing. This is thermally recycled because of the flame retardant it contains. This means that it is incinerated in a waste incineration plant or a cement works.

The coffee machine

The coffee machine has a high recycling rate of 79.9 %. The recyclable materials here are also various metals and recyclable plastics. For practical reasons, the instantaneous water heater contained in the coffee maker is recycled separately. An instantaneous water heater is used to heat water quickly in a spiral. The components are, for example, aluminium, ceramics, iron and sometimes also adhesives. The recycling rate of the instantaneous water heater is 75 %.

The robot vacuum cleaner

The robot hoover has the lowest recycling rate of all the appliances we examined, at 65.7%. What is striking here is the high proportion of plastic. The recyclable part of it is processed into granulate by chemical and physical processes, which can then be used again for new products. The printed circuit board contained in the robot hoover is processed in a separate recycling process. This contains various metals, including small amounts of precious metals and rare earths, which are dissolved out using chemical processes. Caution is advised when recycling the lithium battery. Such a battery contains about 2% lithium. As the metal lithium is very reactive and easily combustible, lithium-ion batteries can become dangerous, especially if they are produced incorrectly or used improperly.

eRecycling: Good for the environment

As you can see, electrical and electronic equipment has an exciting inner life - and each one is unique. What they all have in common: By disposing of them correctly, valuable resources can be conserved, harmful emissions avoided and the environment protected.