World e-waste surpasses 55 million tonnes in 2021

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Experts have warned that the amount of electrical waste generated globally has reached almost 60 million tonnes.

Ahead of international e-waste day, 14 October, many have appealed to households, businesses and governments to support efforts to recycle dead or unused plug-in or battery-operated products.

“This year’s focus for International E-Waste Day is the crucial role each of us has in making circularity a reality for e-products,” said Pascal Leroy, director general of the WEEE Forum, the organisation behind International E-Waste Day.

“85pc of all material that we collect is recovered for use again in manufacturing through both indigenous operators and specialist processors in Europe, meaning our recycling efforts have a significant impact on the environment,” Leroy said.

Global e-waste production is growing annually by 3 to 4pc, a problem attributed to higher consumption rates of electronics, shorter product lifecycles and limited repair options. However, authorised facilities exist where old and broken electrical products can either be recycled or repaired.

This year alone, the amount of e-waste will total about 57.4 million tonnes. This is greater than the weight of the Great Wall of China, which is the heaviest artificial object on the planet.

In Ireland almost 60 million household electrical appliances, tech devices and lighting equipment were placed on the market in 2020. Annual electrical consumption has risen from 15kg a head in 2016 to 21kg a head last year.

The bulk of the e-waste problem is caused by discarded large appliances such as ovens, fridges and microwaves.

According to WEEE Ireland, the country’s division of the larger Belgium-based WEEE Forum organisation, Irish homes contain an average of 15 to 20 electrical items which are broken or unused.

Leo Donovan, CEO of WEEE Ireland said, “Recycling one microwave weighing around 11.5 kg or a vacuum cleaner weighing 4kg goes a long way towards hitting our recycling targets and getting valuable rare earth metals back into our system to be put to good use.”

“Not only does it require a lot more energy to recover metals from the ground than it does to recover it from recycling, but there is only a limited amount of these materials on earth,” he added.

Last year, the WEEE Forum’s international e-waste day was observed by more than 120 organisations from 50 countries worldwide.

Recently, Irish IT recycling company Vyta said it experienced a significant growth in group revenues which it attributed to companies recycling old, redundant computer equipment.

Faye Thomas, CCO at Vyta said: “2021 turned out to be a very strong year for us, despite the restrictions imposed by the global pandemic. We want to educate our customers about the benefits of recycling and using refurbished devices that not only reduce their carbon footprint, but also comply with stringent and ever-changing data regulations.”

Vyta is the only Irish company accredited to the global ADISA IT disposal standard, and one of only four globally to achieve distinction with honours. It is also the only organisation globally to have two sites certified to distinction with honours.

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