Individuals can make a difference to e-waste recycling

This year’s International E-Waste Day 2021 was marked by an estimate that the worldwide mountain of waste electronic and electrical equipment totals 57.4 million tonnes, a greater weight than that of the Great Wall of China, Earth’s heaviest artificial object.

According to Recycling International magazine, last year’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020 reported that an estimated 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste was generated in 2019, a 21% jump in five years and predicted a total of 74 million tonnes by 2030. Higher electronic consumption rates, shorter product lifecycles and limited repair options are the main contributors to an annual growth rate of 2 million tonnes.

The not-for-profit WEEE Forum (a multi-national centre of competence concerning the management of waste electrical and electronic equipment) admits that while many factors play a role in making the electrical and electronics sector resource efficient and circular, one thing is paramount: personal use and attitude. If we don’t return used, broken electronics gear, sell it, or donate it, we will need to continue mining all-new materials causing great environmental damage.

Low public awareness of the e-waste challenge is illustrated by surveys showing people estimate that 40-50% of e-waste is recycled whereas less than half that (17.4%) was recycled in 2019.

Leading experts and producer responsibility organisations are calling on households, businesses and governments to back efforts to get more unused or end-of-life plug-in or battery-operated products to facilities where they can be either repaired or recycled. And it’s not only phones: by weight, discarded appliances such as stoves and refrigerators constitute the largest component of e-waste. 

As we dissect the most recent promises (and disappointments) of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, it’s important to remember that recycling, e-waste and otherwise, begins at home – working towards a social norm of repair, reuse or recycle.

For more information about this and Wanless Waste Management’s e-waste solutions, please contact one of our friendly team members today.