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Electronic product returns and potential reuse opportunities: a microwave case study in the United Kingdom

Dindarian, A., Gibson, A.A.P., Quariguasi-Frota-Neto, J.
Journal of cleaner production 2012 v.32 pp. 22-31
case studies, electronic wastes, interviews, markets, microwave ovens, people, recycling, United Kingdom
One route to reducing electronic waste, increasing product reuse, is dependent on the quality and functionality of discarded electronic goods (core), about which little is known or understood. This paper reports on the collection, testing, and classification of 189 discarded microwave ovens. We find that most had only minor, if any, issues and almost all were suitable for reuse and/or remanufacturing. It was also documented, in face-to-face interviews with 82 persons discarding microwaves, that consumers have little knowledge of disposal routes for end-of-life products other than public recycling facilities, and that a large proportion of consumers discarding microwaves intended to buy a similar product, calling into question the widely-held belief that e-waste is always driven by a desire for the latest technology. Based on these results, it is not unreasonable to argue that, for microwave ovens, the major impediments to reuse are neither the quality of discarded products nor the cost of electrical spare parts, but rather current product design and the incipiency of the market for second hand items. Using this information, minor changes in design that would significantly improve re-usability are proposed to OEMs.