Roughly 5.3 billion smartphones and mobiles will drop out of use this year around the world and become electronic waste, with Italian households the biggest hoarders in Europe.
Mobile phones rank 4th among small EEE products most often hoarded by consumers says a series of European surveys conducted earlier this year by the members of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Forum.
The surveys show that, of 8,775 European households across Portugal, Netherlands, Italy, Romania and Slovenia, and a separate UK survey, the average household contains 74 e-products such as phones, tablets, laptops, electric tools, hair dryers, toasters and other appliances.
Of these, 13 are being hoarded (9 of them unused but working, and four are broken. LED lamps rank tops the list of products most likely to be trashed.
At 29%, Italy tops the list of hoarded small kitchen and household equipment, laptops and tablets in households:
United Kingdom (14%)
“We focussed 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,” said Pascal Leroy, Director General of the WEEE Forum.
“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,” says Leroy. “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 EEE items such as cell phones, electric toothbrushes, toasters and cameras produced worldwide will weight an estimated total of 24.5 million tonnes – four times the weight of the Great Pyramid of Giza. And these small items make up a significant proportion of the 8% of all e-waste thrown into trash bins and eventually landfilled or incinerated,” said Magdalena Charytanowicz of the WEEE Forum
“These 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 – all crucial for the green, digital transition to low-carbon societies.”
In the past twenty years, the companies in the WEEE Forum have collected, de-polluted, recycled or prepared for re-use more than 30 million tonnes of WEEE. They have spent enormous sums on communication campaigns. Still, challenges ahead remain daunting.
On 7 Dec. 2022 the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Grand Challenge Conference will mark the 20th anniversary of the WEEE Forum, a consortium of reputable e-waste collection organizations. The conference will also mark the 20th anniversary of EU Directive 2002/96/EC, the world’s first supranational (EPR) legislation on e-waste soon to be revised and updated.
“The continuing growth in the production, consumption and disposal of electronic devices have 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,” said Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries.
“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 UN “thought paper” offers a series of ideas and options for reducing the global problem. Led by the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU), with contributions from the WEEE Forum and StEP, the Solving the eWaste Problem Initiative – the paper details the pros and cons of a wide range of options. This includes making all entities that have access to e-waste subject to minimum legal obligations as well as deposit return and take-back schemes and digital product passports.
Meanwhile, UNITAR, the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), has also launched the first self-paced e-waste online training course open to anyone.. A UNITAR certificate is available to graduates of the roughly 1.5 hour course with lectures, videos, illustrations, tests and a final exam.
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