5.3bn mobiles to be junked this year as experts call for higher recycling targets
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Around 5.3 billion mobiles and smartphones are expected to drop out of use in 2022, but only a small fraction of them will be recycled, a study has found.
The WEEE Forum, which organises today’s International E-Waste Day, has conducted a survey of 8,775 European households across Portugal, Netherlands, Italy, Romania, Slovenia, and the UK.
It found that the average household contains 74 e-products such as phones, tablets, laptops, electric tools, hair dryers, toasters and other appliances (excluding lamps).
But despite the valuable resources held in the electronics, including gold, copper, silver, palladium and other recyclable components, experts expect a majority will disappear into drawers or cupboards or be tossed into waste bins bound for landfills.
Pascal Leroy, director general of the WEEE Forum, said: “We focused this year on small e-waste items because it is very easy for them to accumulate unused and unnoticed in households, or to be tossed into the ordinary garbage bin.
“People tend not to realise that all these seemingly insignificant items have a lot of value, and together at a global level represent massive volumes.
“The producer responsibility organisations in the WEEE Forum that manage the collection of e-waste are constantly working to make the proper disposal of small e-waste simple and convenient for users and households.
“Providing collection boxes in supermarkets, pick up of small broken appliances upon delivery of new ones and offering PO Boxes to return small e-waste are just some of the initiatives introduced to encourage the return of these items.”
In 2022 alone, small electronic items such as mobile phones, electric toothbrushes, toasters and cameras produced worldwide weigh an estimated total of 24.5 million tonnes. These small items make up a significant proportion of the 8 per cent of all e-waste thrown into rubbish bins and eventually landfilled or incinerated.
The WEEE Forum says devices offer many important resources that can be used in the production of new electronic devices or other equipment, such as wind turbines, electric car batteries or solar panels, which are crucial for the green transition to low-carbon technologies.
Virginijus Sinkevičius, European commissioner for the environment, oceans and fisheries, commented: “The continuing growth in the production, consumption and disposal of electronic devices has huge environmental and climate impacts.
“The European Commission is addressing those with proposals and measures throughout the whole product life-cycle, starting from design until collection and proper treatment when electronics become waste.”
“Moreover, preventing waste and recovering important raw materials from e-waste is crucial to avoid putting more strain on the world’s resources. Only by establishing a circular economy for electronics, the EU will continue to lead in the efforts to urgently address the fast-growing problem of e-waste.”
A 2020 study found that quantities of e-waste were steadily rising but the amount being recycled was actually in decline.
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