A collaborative approach to recycling electronic waste

10 August 2020

How can waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) become a positive resource for the environment and for society? The “RAEE in carcere” (“WEEE in prison”) project, developed in collaboration with numerous partners, including Leonardo, introduces a new form of "circular society" applied to the prison of Bollate, in Milan. Here, a plant has been inaugurated for recycling electrical and electronic equipment, a form of waste that is becoming increasingly abundant as the world becomes more and more digitalised. 

Leonardo’s Information Technology Organisational Unit supplies this 3,000sqm hub with scrap electronic material from the IT Evolution programme tasked with consolidating the various corporate data centres at the two target sites of Genoa and Pomigliano, with a view to upgrading and improving the efficiency of our technology.

Based on the involvement of several local partners and on the collaboration of the public and private sectors, the “WEEE in prison” project creates “all-round” – or "circular" – co-benefits, in line with the new economic model sponsored by the international community, promoting a concept of extended sustainability that aims to create value – not only in economic terms, but also for society and for the environment. 

The project sees the involvement of various stakeholders, alongside the prison of Bollate, namely: Lombardy’s Regional Authorities, the Lombardy Penitentiary Administration Department, the Italian Ministry of Justice, Milan’s City Council, LaboRAEE (a company 100% controlled by Amsa/Gruppo A2A, leader in the management of urban waste), Fenixs (a company specialised in the selection and training of inmates and in coordinating their work activities) and, last but not least, large industrial groups such as Eni and Leonardo. 
This is a virtuous circle in which everyone plays their part. It begins with the forward-thinking decision to establish a recycling plant within the prison. Managed by LaboRAEE, inmates are actively engaged in the dismantling, selection and recovery of discarded electrical and electronic components. 

WEEE is a valuable source of recovered ferrous (iron) and non-ferrous metals (copper, brass, bronze, tin), plastic polymers, rubber and IT components such as electronic circuit boards, processors and power packs.

Following the consolidation of the first 3 of the 20 corporate data centres planned overall, Leonardo's IT Division has so far contributed to recovering approximately 1,500kg of ferrous material from over 4,000kg of scrap WEEE. This material will be re-melted and returned to the production chain, while the remaining components will be directed towards second-level plants for the production of new goods. 

In addition to promoting the recovery of WEEE, reducing their environmental impact and attaining the recovery objectives set by European regulations, the Bollate plant’s peculiar location offers prisoners the opportunity to acquire professional skills needed to ensure they are qualified to work in a continuingly evolving workplace, and equipped for their ultimate reintegration into society.

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