Root out those unused electrical items

Headphones and remote controls are among the most hoarded waste electrical and electronic items in Europe

Old and broken clocks, irons, hard drives and routers also make up the mountain of e-waste lying in our cupboards, attics and garden sheds.

The statistics were released recently as part of International E-waste Day, which Ireland’s WEEE recycling leaders backed by urging consumers to root out unused, stashed electrical items.

The figures show that of 16 billion mobile phones worldwide, 5.3 billion will become waste in 2022 – and stacked flat on top of each other, would stretch to 50,000km.

This year alone, the world will produce 24.5 million tonnes of small e-waste – four times the weight of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Leo Donovan, CEO of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Ireland, said: “Despite containing rare precious metals and other recyclable components, a large volume of small appliances are hoarded in drawers, wardrobes, cupboards and garages or worse still, are discarded in rubbish bins bound for landfill or incineration.”

He added: “This is an incredible waste of resources, is bad for the planet and prevents us from either re-using these items or harvesting these important and scarce resources so they can be used again to manufacture new products.

“We would therefore urge the public to drop their e-waste to authorised collections points in their local electrical retailer or recycling centre.”

The number reason for hoarding end-of-life phones and other e-waste products is ‘I might use it again,’ cited by 46% of consumers, followed by ‘I plan on selling it or giving it away’ (15%) and ‘It has sentimental value’ (13%).

The data compiled by the WEEE Forum, which organises International E-waste Day, revealed that the top hoarded electrical and electronic products in Europe are: • Small consumer electronics and accessories such as headphones and remote controls • Household equipment such as clocks and irons • Small IT equipment including external hard drives, routers, keyboards and mice • Mobile and smartphones • Equipment for food preparation like toasters, food processing and grills. Of 8,775 European households surveyed in 6 countries, the average household contains 74 e-products such as phones, tablets, laptops, electric tools, hair dryers, toasters and other appliances.

13 of these, 9 of which are in working order, are being hoarded.

Separate research by WEEE Ireland this year showed 6 in 10 who purchased an electrical item said they recycled their old one. However, consumers in Ireland still recycled a record 18.7 million waste electrical items last year – including 127,000 fridges, 205,000 TVs and monitors and over 2.3 million lightbulbs in a total takeback of 38,464 tonnes.

“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,” said Pascal Leroy, Director General of the WEEE Forum.