The year 2023 will end with a world record for waste electrical and electronic equipment
Mankind will generate more than 61.3 million tonnes of such waste by the end of the year, which is 15 times the weight of the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest, which weighs 4.1 million tonnes and is the heaviest building in the world.
According to RESPO WEEE Association, only 18% of this waste will be properly treated and recycled. The representatives of the association explain why these figures are very worrying and why waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is the fastest growing category of waste globally, while the recycling process does not even reach a fifth of the total amount generated.
“According to official data, the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest weighs 4.1 million tonnes and is the heaviest building in the world. Now imagine a mountain of electrical waste, 15 times heavier. That’s how much mankind will generate this year, which is 3.9 million tonnes more WEEE than in 2021, when 57.3 million tonnes were generated. The technological progress, trends, the falling price of these products, rising living standards, over-consumption and limited repair options make people quick to throw away old, broken or less efficient electrical and electronic products. On average, the amount of discarded WEEE is increasing by 2 million tonnes every year and will reach no less than 70 million tonnes by 2030,” says Cristian Pocol, President of RESPO WEEE Association (www.respo.ro).
Over 50 million tonnes of electrical waste illegally dumped, burned or traded in 2023 alone
Of this enormous amount of waste, only a small part ends up being collected, treated and recycled properly, and this is because the population has not yet learned sustainable WEEE management behaviour and there is not yet a well-established system in place around the world whereby end-of-life equipment can be handed in and treated properly.
“Only 17.4% of the 61.3 million tonnes of waste, which is a mixture of harmful substances and valuable materials, will be properly collected, treated and recycled globally. The remaining 50.6 million tonnes will either be landfilled, illegally burned or traded and treated in a non-standardised way, or simply dumped in households. We should bear in mind that this waste contains chemical elements that are hazardous to the environment and human health, but also elements that can be recovered and reused for the production of other equipment”, says the RESPO WEEE representative.
Even in Europe, which is the world leader in WEEE recycling, only 54% of electrical waste is officially reported as collected and recycled, while the practice of WEEE recycling is completely foreign in the United States, China or India, which are also among the largest generators of such waste.
“I am not exaggerating when I say that in less than 10 years, the planet will be choked with waste electrical and electronic equipment, in addition to other categories of household waste, textiles, plastic and glass. At least 50 million tonnes of such waste now end up in landfill, soil or water every year, threatening the balance of the human and animal kingdom. Recycling must become a global policy, and soon. We keep talking about global warming and recycling plays an important role in prevention. The production of new electrical equipment requires resources, which are extracted through mining, and this activity is known to be very polluting. By recycling we encourage the circular economy, and thus a large part of the resources will be returned to the production circuit and greenhouse gas emissions will be significantly reduced”, explains Cristian Pocol.
How much waste Romania and European countries generate
Europeans are big consumers of technology, of products that they often replace with new models, so there is a tendency to generate large amounts of waste electrical and electronic equipment.
Norway currently produces the largest amount of electrical waste, 26 kg per capita, according to a study by the Global E-waste Monitor. However, the situation is set to improve considerably as the country has taken steps to improve WEEE management through a scheme whereby companies producing electrical or electronic equipment and batteries help fund the e-waste and recycling industry.
The UK is currently in second place with 23.9 kg of WEEE per capita and is expected to climb to number 1 next year, replacing Norway.
In third place in Europe, in the ranking of countries generating the most WEEE, is Switzerland, with 23.4 kg per capita.
With 7 kilograms of WEEE generated per capita, Romania ranks 21st in Europe, but we are at the back of the recycling queue, because the recycling rate does not exceed 25%, even though the European Union’s rule is 65% for collection and 80% for treatment and recycling. However, this rule is currently contested by many countries and is impossible to achieve even by the most developed and advanced nations in Europe.
“Even with such small quantities of WEEE generated annually, with an average rate of 25%, we are in the last place in Europe in recycling, and that’s because many people keep the used equipment at home or dispose of it in the household waste or the environment. It all comes down to education and understanding how we are harming the environment, even without knowing it. It is not difficult to change our behaviour to be responsible towards society and the environment”, explains the president of RESPO WEEE Association.
What does WEEE mean?
Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) means any electrically powered equipment, whether it is connected to the grid or uses a battery, that no longer fulfils the function for which it was built.
They should not be kept in the house for storage or thrown in the bin.
WEEE includes thermal transfer equipment, screens, monitors and televisions, lamps, large electrical equipment, small electrical equipment, computer equipment and small electronic communications equipment.
Free solutions for correct and efficient WEEE recycling in Romania
In Romania, people can hand in electrical and electronic equipment for recycling by ordering the RESPO box by phone or online at www.respo.ro. Once received at home or at any other specified address, they can place small electrical equipment in the box, which will then be picked up by specialists and transported to recycling centres.
“The RESPO box is our proposed solution to keep small electrical equipment out of landfill. It is made of cardboard and I think we should all have it in our homes to collect waste. Once the box is full, we can take it to the partner shops that collect it, we can take it out when the garbage truck comes, or we can call the toll-free number to find out where the nearest point is”, concludes Cristian Pocol, President of RESPO WEEE Association.