New survey reveals electronic waste a growing problem globally

“We need to understand this growth and counter it with everyone involved: national authorities, enforcement agencies, Producer Responsibility Organizations, original equipment manufacturers, recyclers, researchers and consumers themselves.”

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As technology continues to develop, electronic waste is a global problem. The international Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Forum said that as people upgrade their old electronics, it estimates that more than 5.3 billion mobile phones alone will be disposed of in 2022.

According to WEEE, consumers will either throw their old phones in the trash, ending up in the landfill, or they will hold onto them.

“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,” Pascal Leroy, director general of WEEE Forum, said. “People tend not to realize that all these seemingly insignificant items have a lot of value, and together at a global level represent massive volumes.”

WEEE Forum conducted surveys between June and September and found that “an average European household has 74 electronic products, like phones, tablets, laptops, hair tools, appliances and other devices,” EcoWatch reported. It determined that the top five reasons people keep their unused or broken electronics:

  1. 46% may use the items again
  2. 15% plan to sell or give them away
  3. 13% hold onto the items due to sentimental value
  4. 9% believe the items may appreciate
  5. 7% don’t know how to properly recycle the items

EcoWatch reported that “despite the fact that there are many valuable resources that can be recycled from old phones, including gold, copper, silver and palladium,” mobile phones rank no. 4 in small electronic items that are hoarded, or kept despite being unused or broken.

But the WEEE Forum said keeping old electronics is also contributing to e-waste and should be recycled.

“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,” Magdalena Charytanowicz, communication manager for WEEE Forum and leader of International E-Waste Day, said.

Electronic waste is now a global problem that needs immediate attention and appropriate measures, Ruediger Kuehr, founder of the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)’s Sustainable Cycles (SCYCLE) Program, said, or else “global e-waste could double to 100 million tonnes or more in the next 30 years.”

“We need to understand this growth and counter it with everyone involved: national authorities, enforcement agencies, Producer Responsibility Organizations, original equipment manufacturers, recyclers, researchers and consumers themselves,” Kuehr said.

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