Headphones and remote controls are among the most hoarded waste electrical and electronic items in Europe, according to new data released this month.
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 grim 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.
“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.
“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,” Leo Donovan, CEO of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE ) Ireland, said.
The number one reason for hoarding end-of-life phones and other e-waste products is, “I might use it again,” cited by 46 percent of consumers, followed by, “I plan on selling it or giving it away” (15 percent ), and, “It has sentimental value” (13 percent ).
The data compiled by the WEEE forum reveals that the top five hoarded electrical and electronic products in Europe are:small consumer electronics and accessories such as headphones, remote controls; household equipment such as clocks, irons; small IT equipment including external hard drives, routers, keyboards, mice; mobile and smartphones; and equipment for food preparation – toasters, food processing, grills.
Of 8,775 European households surveyed in six countries, the average household contains 74 e-products such as phones, tablets, laptops, electric tools, hair dryers, toasters and other appliances. Thirteen of these, nine of which are in working order, are being hoarded.
Separate research by WEEE Ireland this year shows just six 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 focused 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.
“People tend not to realise that all these seemingly insignificant items have a lot of value, and together at a global level represent massive volumes.
“The producer responsibility organisations in the WEEE Forum that manage the collection of e-waste are constantly working to make the proper disposal of small e-waste simple and convenient for users and households.
“Providing collection boxes in supermarkets, pick up of small broken appliances upon delivery of new ones and offering PO boxes to return small e-waste are just some of the initiatives introduced to encourage the return of these items,” Pascal Leroy, director general of the WEEE Forum, stated.
See weeeireland.ie for a map of free recycling drop-off points for WEEE beyond repair or reuse.