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Vacuum cleaner

Product definition

Vacuum cleaners are divided into two main categories of products:

  • The canister vacuum cleaner for which the suction and filtration system and dust collection are connected to the head and nozzle for hose. The user manipulates in this case the head.
  • The sticks vacuum cleaners, in which all suction filtration, and dust collection system forms a single part with the head of the unit.

The filtration system is also different depending on the product:

  • The vacuum cleaners bags. A paper bag used as a filter for retaining dust sucked, it must be replaced periodically.
  • Bag less vacuum cleaners, including the filtration system is a cyclone filter most often supplemented by one or more filters, dust is collected in a receptacle. The receptacle must be emptied simply and filters cleaned regularly.

The current trend is to see appear on cordless vacuums cleaners, they then operate on batteries. These vacuums are sometimes completely autonomous and do not need then any intervention from the user during their work. The user is responsible only to empty the dust bin when it is full.

Composition of a vacuum cleaner

Figure 1: composition of a vacuum cleaner (EuP Study)

Current fleet

Sales of canister vacuum cleaners show a certain evolution in recent years. Combined with the sales’ evolution of other types of vacuum cleaners, the equipment rate in vacuum cleaner of French households continues to increase (80,4% in 2014, according to a TNS SOFRES study).

Depollution and recycling of the product

Depollution / pre-treatment

Vacuum cleaner depollution is done as for all SHA, after a first grinding step. This grinding is initially performed to « open up » products by bursting them.
The vacuum cleaner then goes through a manual depollution step during in which the batteries and electronic cards are removed.
Note that according to the treatment facility, the power cord is sometimes removed before shredding it first to be directly routed to a dedicated treatment system.
The rest of the vacuum cleaner is then sent to a second grinding step.

Treatment / Recycling

The second grinding step is finer grinding to separate the different materials of vacuum cleaners.
The recovered materials after grinding vacuum cleaners are:
– The ferrous: magnetic sorting
– Plastics: optical sorting
– Aluminium: sorted by eddy current
– Copper: sorted by eddy current
The fractions remaining at the end are treated as Common industrial waste.

The sorted materials are directed to the following final treatment facilities/metallurgical plants:

Components / materialsTreatment system
Ferrous metalsSteel work
PlasticsExtrusion, Plastics industries
AluminiumMetals recycler
CopperMetals recycler

Table 1: Ways of processing of different fractions

Proposed improvement plan

The table below provides some ideas to improve the recycling of WEEE. These ideas are from studies on the recycling of some products and difficulties encountered by treatment operators responsible for the treatment of WEEE. These areas for improvement can initiate a deeper reflection from producers. However, each product has its specificities and a number of other constraints to fulfill.

Encountered difficultiesImpact for recyclingEco design opportunities
For depollution and pre-treatment
Some cordless vacuums contain batteries.These batteries must be removed before recycling.Ensure a quick an easy access to batteries, indicating their position in the product and allowing disassembly without tools.
Use of plastics components containing brominated flame retardantsThese plastics must be separated from other plastics.Facilitate the identification of materials containing brominated flame retardants.
Substitute the use of brominated flame retardants.
Some power cords may still contain PVC.These power cords must be removed.Facilitate identification and removal of these cables.
For recycling
Presence of plastics containing brominated flame retardants on parts that can not be removed before the grinding step (e.g. : parts close to motors)These plastics must be removed during step of recycling because they are not allowed for the recycling of plastics.Facilitate the identification of these plastics by sorting methods (including optical) used after grinding.
Substitute the use of brominated flame retardants.
Presence of metallic inserts unremovable in plastic parts.These metal inserts are not allowed for the recycling of plastic waste after crushing.Avoid using metal inserts.
Choose fasteners compatible with grinding.
Variety of plastics used.Once separated from metals, plastics must be sorted for recycling.Prefer clear colored plastic, easier to sort.
Mark plastic parts according to ISO 1043 and ISO 11469.
Use plastic compatible with with each others during recycling.
Presence of PCBs.Depending on their size (>10cm²) these cards must be removed.Mechanically fix the electrical elements to facilitate their removal during recycling.
For reuse, remploy
The accessories of the vacuum cleaner such as :
- the hose
- the suction head
- the reel
- power switch
are damaged while the rest of the product is still functional.
The inability to replace these parts makes difficult the reuse of vacuums.Standardize the accessories of a product / one brand to another.
Improve the durability of the weakest components.
Ensure availability of spare parts, even after the end of the marketing of a product.
Ensure distribution of spare parts by the (same) distribution networks of products.
Failure of the suction motor leads user to discard of her vacuum cleaner.Engines are often parts whose cost of repair is high (complexity of the system, parts prices).Improve engine reliability.
Prefer engines that requires fewer wear parts (e.g. coals)
Consumables (e.g. bags) may become unavailable if the product is no longer marketed.Without consumables, products are no longer usable.Standardize consumable from product / brand to another.
Ensure availability of consumables, even after the end of the marketing of a product.


Evolution of sticks vacuum cleaners sales in France. GIFAM (update: 01-02-2017)

COMMISSION DECISION of 11 February 2003 establishing the ecological criteria for the award of the Community eco-label to vacuum cleaners.

Work on Preparatory Studies for Eco-Design Requirements of EuPs (II) Lot 17 Vacuum Cleaners TREN/D3/390-2006 Final Report

Updated on octobre 23, 2017

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