6 July 2020 by James Langley

UK the ‘second largest producer’ of WEEE

The UK generated the second most waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) per capita in the world in 2019, behind only Norway, according to a report published by a global e-waste grouping.

The Global E-waste Monitor report says the UK generates 23.9kg per capita – compared with 26kg in Norway – although WEEE produced per capita in the UK has fallen from 2016, when it stood at 24.9kg.

The Global E-waste Monitor report says Northern Europe is the world’s largest producer of WEEE

The Global E-waste Monitor 2020 (www.globalewaste.org) is a collaborative product from the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership, formed by the UN University, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The World Health Organization  and the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development also contributed to the study.

The UN’s report suggests the UK generated 1.6 million tonnes of WEEE in 2019, one of the highest figures in Europe, on a par with Germany.

Table showing WEEE generated by selected countries in 2019

Global E-waste Monitor

The third Global E-waste Monitor report for 2020 found Northern Europe was the world’s largest producer of WEEE in 2019 at 22.4 kg per capita,

However, the study also says Northern Europe has one of the highest rates of WEEE recycling in the world, at 59%. The report found gold, platinum and other precious metals worth £7.9 billion were “dumped” every year as WEEE.

In 2019, a record 54 million tonnes of WEEE was generated across the globe, the report says. This is equivalent to 7.3kg for every person on Earth, though use of the equipment is concentrated in richer nations.

This means the amount of WEEE produced is rising three times faster than the world’s population. The report blames this increase on a lack of regulation and the short lifespan of products that are hard or impossible to repair.

Graph showing WEEE generated per capita in selected countries

Nigeria

The report says a study conducted in Nigeria shows that approximately 60,000-71,000 tonnes of used EEE were imported annually into Nigeria through the two main ports in Lagos in 2015 and 2016.

It was found that most of the imported WEEE was shipped from developed countries such as Germany, UK, Belgium and the USA.

On average, at least 19% of devices were non-functional, the report says.

UK

In the UK, the WEEE sector body, Material Focus – formerly the WEEE Fund with funds via the compliance fee part of the UK’s WEEE system, has also carried out recent research. It claimed that the UK economy could save £370 million if all the old small electricals that are “either thrown away or hoarded” were recycled.

Material Focus was previously known as the WEEE Fund

The not-for-profit organisation estimates the UK is reuses and recycles around 60% of household and commercial WEEE.

Material Focus launched a campaign called Recycle Your Electricals in May, which aims to prevent discarded electrical items from being fly-tipped or going to landfill (see letsrecycle.com story). The campaign is funded by producers of electrical appliances, through the WEEE Fund.

Scott Butler is the executive director of Material Focus, and said: “According to the Global E-waste Monitor, Europe and the UK are one of the biggest producers of electrical waste; it’s vital therefore that we all take action now to recycle our electricals.

“Material Focus research has identified that in the UK we are throwing away or hoarding 490,000 tonnes of domestic and commercial waste, and this is set to grow.

“Of this alone, UK households are throwing away 155,000 tonnes of domestic electrical waste every year and we are hoarding 527 million small old electricals, weighing around 190,000 tonnes – nearly 20 items per household.

“In addition, 145,000 tonnes of commercial and industrial waste is also being thrown away.”

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