Ireland’s largest recycling scheme has called on consumers to boost the lifespan of unwanted electronics by repairing them or passing them on to others.

The call to recognise the potential left in electronic products comes from WEEE Ireland as International E-Waste Day reveals that the raw material value of global e-waste in 2019 was worth approximately €50.8bn, the equivalent value of 2.9m electric cars.

Electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world. It is estimated that a new high of 53.6m tonnes of e-waste were generated across the planet in 2019.

“Before putting an electronic item to recycling we would ask people to consider if it can be repaired or if someone else might find a use for it”

E-waste is projected to reach an incredible 75m tonnes by 2030, which is 9 kg for every person in the world. Every house has an average of 72 electrical products, 11 of which are broken or not being used anymore.

International E-Waste Day is organised by the WEEE Forum, an international association speaking for 40 not-for-profit e-waste producer compliance schemes, including WEEE Ireland whose annual conference ‘Financing the Future, the WEEE Circular Economy’ will also take place virtually today to coincide with International E-Waste Day.

Circular economy

Infographic showing scale of electronic waste.

“It is, essentially, about loving our electronic items for longer,” said Leo Donovan, CEO of WEEE Ireland.

“Before putting an electronic item to recycling we would ask people to consider if it can be repaired or if someone else might find a use for it.

“Research shows that 81% of all requests for product repair results in successful fixes, extending the product life. 

“We are making the request in support of a transition towards a zero carbon more circular economy, which aims to keep our resources in circulation for longer, reducing waste and easing demand for new raw materials used to manufacture new electronic goods.

“If we really want to progress to a circular economy in Ireland, we need to look further up the waste hierarchy and that may mean including more criteria such as durability and repairability in the information provided to customers.

“Through a variety of methods, we should look at keeping suitable products in use for as long as possible, either by the original user, flowing to new owners or utilising repair services.”

WEEE Ireland was the second-best performing recycling scheme in Europe in 2019, with 38,594 tonnes of waste electrical items and the equivalent of over 44 million used AA portable batteries collected.

A new national record of 10.89kg of e-waste was recycled per head of population last year by WEEE Ireland, on behalf of over 1,114 members and partners – a rise of 6.2% on 2018.

Alongside International E-waste Day, International Repair Day takes place this Saturday, 17 October to encourage people to reduce the amount of goods discarded of every year and use authorised repair engineers for quality and safe repair of home electrical equipment.

By visiting RepairMyStuff.ie consumers can access an online directory of repair professionals nationwide.

As well as discussing initiatives to encourage consumers to prolong the use of their electronics today’s WEEE Ireland conference highlights the future requirement for eco-modulation.

Donovan suggested that this is a possible future economic instrument to put the circular economy in practice by providing a financial incentive to companies to redesign products to reduce their environmental impacts.

Main image at top: Tadgh O’Reilly (11) with stilt walker Gary. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 14 October, 2020

Recommended