Too much electronics is hoarded

Unused Cell Phones

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It is estimated that only 5.3 billion of the approximately 16 billion mobile phones worldwide will be disposed of this year. © Lisa Ducret/dpa

The old headphone plugs end up in the drawer, as does the old mobile phone – you could use them again. The apparently insignificant objects in their huge quantity from a global perspective represent great value and should be recycled, experts emphasize.

Brussels/Geneva – According to estimates, around 5.3 billion of the approximately 16 billion mobile phones worldwide will become waste this year. This is what experts point out on the day of electronic waste on October 14th.

The WEEE Forum in Brussels and the United Nations Training and Research Institute (UNITAR) in Geneva reported that only a small part of this is properly disposed of. If the discarded devices, which are around nine millimeters thick, were all placed on top of each other, the tower would be around 50,000 kilometers high.

According to a survey by the WEEE Forum in cooperation with UNITAR, an average of 13 electrical and electronic devices are hoarded in European households, although they are no longer used or are defective. 8775 households in Portugal, the Netherlands, Italy, Romania and Slovenia as well as in Great Britain were included. Overall, there is an average of 74 electrical and electronic devices in every household, such as telephones, tablets, laptops, power tools, hair dryers and toasters.

Above all, small entertainment electronics are hoarded

Of these 74 devices, 9 on average are no longer used and 4 are defective. These 13 small electrical appliances per household could be recycled – instead, they often stayed in the drawer, on the shelf or in the garage, it said. Small consumer electronics and accessories (headphones, remote controls), small household appliances (watches, irons), small IT devices (external hard drives, routers, keyboards, mice), mobile phones and smartphones and small appliances for food preparation (toasters, grills) are the most frequently hoarded ).

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As a reason for keeping, 46 percent of the participants in the survey stated that they could use the device again in the future. Other reasons included intention to sell or give away the device (15 percent), sentimental value (13 percent), and not knowing how to dispose of it (7 percent). The justifications also included that there was sensitive data on the devices and that there was no incentive for recycling. “People tend not to realize that all these seemingly insignificant items have great value and together represent huge amounts on a global scale,” said Pascal Leroy, Director General of the WEEE Forum.

Manufacturer responsible for return and disposal

“In 2022 alone, small electronic items such as mobile phones, electric toothbrushes, toasters and cameras manufactured worldwide are estimated to weigh a total of 24.5 million tons – four times the weight of the Great Pyramid of Giza,” explained Magdalena Charytanowicz of the WEEE Forum. The international association is pushing ahead with the development of a circular economy for electronic waste and is demanding that global politicians implement extended producer responsibility. With this legal requirement, the manufacturer of a device is also responsible for taking back, transporting, disposing of or reprocessing the device.

Electronic Waste Day is intended to raise public awareness of the recycling of electrical and electronic devices that contain valuable elements such as gold, copper, silver or palladium. The motto this year is: “Recycle it all, no matter how small!” The organizers want to focus on the many smaller electronic devices that are found in European homes.

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“Continued growth in the production, consumption and disposal of electronic devices has enormous environmental and climate impacts,” said Virginijus Sinkevicius, European Commissioner for Environment and Oceans. The proposals and measures of the European Commission therefore relate to the entire product life cycle, from design to collection and proper treatment of the waste. dpa