40,000 times around the world by car: that's how many environmental impact points SENS eRecycling saved in one year.

For over 30 years, SENS eRecycling has been organising the collection, sorting and dismantling of electrical appliances and ensuring that harmful substances are disposed of properly and valuable raw materials are recycled. In 2021 alone, SENS eRecycling collected over 62,100 tonnes of recyclable materials that were returned to the cycle. The benefit to the environment is considerable: in 2021, it amounted to 815 bn. environmental impact points (EIP). The professional disposal of pollutants such as PCBs, coolants or mercury contributed 93% to this.

Since 1990, SENS eRecycling has been collecting, sorting and dismantling refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners, large and small electrical appliances as well as light bulbs and photovoltaic elements together with its partner companies. In this way, it ensures that the appliances are disposed of properly and that the pollutants they contain are not released into the environment. Every year, SENS eRecycling summarises these services in an eco-balance and shows the benefit of eRecycling for the environment in the form of environmental impact points (EIP). To calculate these eco-points, the performance of SENS eRecycling over the past year is compared with a scenario "without SENS eRecycling". Finally, the performance of SENS eRecycling that exceeds the basic scenario "without SENS eRecycling" is shown (see end).

815 billion environmental impact points or 40,000 times around the world by car

In 2021, an environmental performance of 815 billion UBP resulted from a total of 88 589 tonnes of appliances collected and recycled by SENS eRecycling and its partners. This is around 300 tonnes more than in 2020, avoiding as many emissions to the environment as 40 000 car journeys around the world would cause.

The largest share of the total reported environmental benefit of SENS eRecycling was contributed by large electrical appliances, with a total of 517 billion euros. This was followed by refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners (217 billion UBP). With all these appliances, the removal of pollutants such as PCBs, CFCs and mercury plays a major role. Although PCBs have not been allowed to be used as a building material in Switzerland since 1986, they can still be found in old ballasts for fluorescent tubes or in long-lasting household appliances such as washing machines.

1. High increase in 1998: From 1998 onwards, SENS eRecycling also included electrical appliances with PCB-containing capacitors in its take-back system. Thus, more pollutants were disposed of correctly by leaps and bounds.
2. Decrease as of 2003: PCB-containing capacitors in electrical appliances are steadily decreasing. Therefore, the environmental benefit of recycling them is also decreasing.

Trend reversal in 2015: share of pollutant removal decreases

Since 2015, an increasingly clear trend has become visible in the life cycle assessment of SENS eRecycling: the environmental benefit attributable to the prevention of pollutant emissions is steadily decreasing, as fewer and fewer appliances still contain PCBs. Instead, recycling of recyclable materials is becoming increasingly important (cf. chart below). Since 2015, photovoltaic elements and, in the future, car batteries from e-mobility have also contributed to this increase.

Great importance of secondary raw materials

According to the Global Footprint Network, by 28 July 2022 the world will have used up all the natural resources that nature makes available to us globally in one year. This shows how important - in addition to a more sustainable use of our resources in everyday life - the extraction and processing of secondary raw materials from discarded products or appliances will be in the future. And there is a lot of this in electrical appliances in particular. Last year, SENS eRecycling recovered 6939.0 tonnes of plastics, 47 154.9 tonnes of iron and steel and 2845.7 tonnes of aluminium from the more than 62 100 tonnes of recyclable materials collected. But glass, copper, gold and silver were also among them (cf. chart below).

Collected steel is enough for a second rail network through the Lötschberg base tunnel

Sooner or later, all these materials will flow back into the cycle as secondary raw materials. With the collected amount of steel alone, for example, a second rail network could be built through the Lötschberg base tunnel. In addition, the processing of secondary raw materials consumes fewer resources, energy and CO2 compared to the extraction of primary raw materials, which means that the recycling of recyclable materials can make a significant contribution to a climate-neutral Switzerland in 2050.

Reference scenario
The basic assumption for calculating the life cycle assessment of SENS eRecycling is that in a scenario "without SENS eRecycling" the same number of appliances are produced as in the system "with SENS eRecycling". In the scenario "without SENS eRecycling", the economically useful recyclables would also be extracted from the many electrical appliances, but the expensive removal of pollutants would be neglected. The environmental performance of SENS eRecycling is therefore shown in environmental impact points (EIP) and calculated as the difference between the current state, the scenario "with SENS eRecycling", and the basic scenario "without SENS eRecycling". The detailed life cycle assessment for 30 years of SENS eRecycling can be viewed here.