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Potential for Improvement in Handling of Electronic Waste

57.4 million tons of e-waste were generated worldwide this year. This represents a new record. Despite valuable raw materials, only a small fraction is recycled.

WEEE Forum


If the trend continues, consumers will probably produce 74 million tons of e-waste in 2030. According to experts from the WEEE Forum ("Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment"), the Corona crisis has significantly increased the consumption of electrical products.
According to calculations by the UN, only 17.4% of disposed waste equipment was recycled in 2019. Valuable raw materials such as gold and silver are burned or dumped in landfills, and mercury enters the environment during disposal, where it becomes a hazard to humans and ecosystems.

The resulting mining of new raw materials causes enormous environmental damage.
According to EU directives, producers of electrical goods have been obliged to take back products for some time, but this option is rarely used by consumers.

The director of the WEEE Forum, Pascal Leroy, therefore appeals on the occasion of the International E-waste Day (October 14, 2021) to the responsibility of the end consumers, without whose participation no functioning circular economy can be established.

Advices for dealing with e-waste
Anyone in possession of large electrical appliances can take them to the nearest recycling center. The drop-off is free of charge. Some recycling centers also offer to pick up the products, but then there is a surcharge.

In stores with a sales area higher than 400 m², old appliances must be taken back.
In addition, old appliances must be taken back free of charge if a new product of the same sales group is purchased.

In 2022, the take-back points will be expanded. Large grocery stores (more than 800 m² area), which from time to time have electrical goods in their assortment, should then also introduce take-back points.

Products smaller than 25 cm in diameter can be brought to recycling centers but additionally to electrical retailers. This regulation applies however only to up to three devices of the same kind.
The German Environmental Aid announced that in 2020, approximately 200,000 tons of old appliances were returned to the dealers, although 2.8 million tons of new goods were sold.

So there is still a lot of potential for recycling here, which we consumers can use.

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