Upcycling strategies for waste electronic and electrical equipment based on material flow analysis

Yi, Sora;Lee, Hisun;Lee, Jeongmin;Kim, Woong

  • Received : 2018.03.08
  • Accepted : 2018.06.11
  • Published : 2019.03.31


Upcycling generally refers to the conversion of waste materials to something useful or valuable and is a useful concept that can be applied not only to the waste design industry but also to waste recycling and resource circulation. Our study highlights upcycling as the key concept for improving the value of waste by redefining the concept as "the recycling of waste materials and discarded products in ways that enhance their value." Four upcycling strategies are linked to material flow analyses conducted on waste electronic and electrical equipment, specifically waste refrigerators and waste computers, to examine the technologies available for implementation and suggest guidelines for the promotion of upcycling. The amount of waste refrigerators collected by the formal sector was 121,642 tons/y and the informal sector, 63,823 tons/y. The current recycling ratio of waste refrigerators was estimated as 88.53%. A total of 7,585 tons/y of waste computers were collected by the formal sector and 3,807 tons/y by the informal sector after discharge. Meanwhile, the current recycling ratio of waste computers was estimated as 77.43%. We found that it is possible to introduce 28 upcycling technologies in the case of refrigerators, and 15 technologies are available to promote upcycling in the case of computers. By refining the broad concept of upcycling and looking at the stages of material flow, our approach presents universally applicable directions for incorporating upcycling in resource recovery and recirculation plans.


High-grade recycling;Resource circulation;Waste computer;Waste refrigerator


Supported by : National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF)