SENS and Swico Technical Committee team
Technical Committee

Swiss finish in electronic waste recycling

The past year has largely involved updating the supplementary technical regulations, known as the ‘Swiss finish’, and joint further education on the final processing of fractions containing precious metals in specialised smelting plants.

Swiss finish

The Swiss take-back systems were launched in 1992 (SENS) and 1994 (Swico). From the very beginning, both focused on high and consistent quality when processing returned waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). External audit bodies were engaged for this purpose from the outset. Working in collaboration with the systems, they developed technical regulations as a basis for the treatment of electrical and electronic waste and auditing recycling processes. The systems initially had separate regulations and conducted separate audits, but joint audits began taking place after the first few years. The combined ‘technical regulations for the disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment’ formed the basis of processing and auditing from 2009 onwards. They were later adopted into the European WEEELABEX standard, which also formed the fundament of the current CENELEC standard (EN 50625). Switzerland adopted the European standard EN 50625 and issued supplementary technical regulations in 2016 – for the purpose of giving the regulations a Swiss finish. They were comprehensively revised in 2023. The revision process, led by the Swico/SENS Technical Committee, was submitted in draft form to the recycling companies for comment, and then finalised. The work was completed at the end of October 2023 and came into force on 1 January 2024.

Further auditor training

The SENS and Swico Technical Committee carries out mandatory further training roughly every two years. Last year’s training was dedicated to the topic of ‘final processing of fractions containing precious metals in specialised smelting plants’. Dr Christian Hagelüken, the former Head of the ‘EU Government Affairs’ Department at Umicore, was brought on board as a speaker for this exciting field. His seminar, which lasted several hours, focused primarily on the opportunities and challenges of multi-metal recycling from complex products and the recycling of lithium-ion batteries. He once again showed us that much of what can ultimately be recovered from the products is primarily determined by collection and pre-processing. Although final processing takes place abroad, the scope for action lies in collection and pre-processing in Switzerland. He believes that greater importance should be attached to the recycling of valuable substances and critical metals rather than focusing on purely mass-based recycling quotas.

With regard to the recycling of lithium-ion batteries, he presented the Umicore process of pyrometallurgical and hydrometallurgical processing and their advantages over purely mechanical processes. To be able to shine a light on the practical side of things, a visit had been arranged to the battery recycling plant of Batrec AG in Wimmis on the second day of the training. Here, visitors could also view the newly commissioned lithium battery recycling plant. In addition to cobalt and other metals, lithium is recovered here too.

Completion of Empa’s auditing activities

In connection with Empa’s focus on research and the reduction of routine services, a process was launched in 2022 together with Swico to find a successor solution for auditing work. This was completed at the end of 2023. The company dss+ (Zurich and Geneva) will now operate the audit office for Swico and carry out all of the auditing activities. This solution is positive across the board, as the audit team is made up of former Empa employees who were previously part of the Empa audit team themselves.

As of 2024, the audit team consists of the following nine auditors: Anahide Bondolfi, Andreas Bill, Stefanie Conrad, Flora Conte, Arthur Haarman, Niklaus Renner, Daniel Savi, Thekla Scherer and Esther Thiébaud.