Over 5 billion phones will become waste this year

One of six e-products in average european household is being hoarded, finds non-profit survey

Small electronics and accessories like headphones and remotes are among top items hoarded by households. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Hoarding of small, unused, dead or broken plug-in and battery-operated products is the focus of this year’s 5th annual International E-Waste Day. One out of every six electronic products in an average European household is hoarded, a survey has found.

International E-Waste Day is held on October 14 every year as an opportunity to reflect on the impacts of e-waste. This year’s slogan is ‘Recycle it all, no matter how small!’. 

Roughly 5.3 billion mobile/smartphones will drop out of use this year, according to non-profit Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Forum, which started the day in 2018. The electronics would reach a height of around 50,000 km if stacked flat and on top of each other. That’s an eighth of the distance to the moon. 

Read more: How e-waste crisis continues to plague informal sector

WEEE Forum is an international association of 46 e-waste producer responsibility organisations.

A majority of these phones will disappear into drawers, closets, cupboards or garages, or be tossed into waste bins bound for landfills or incineration, the body said. Mobile phones/ smartphones have valuable gold, copper, silver, palladium and other recyclable components. 

The forum released the results of surveys conducted to reveal why so many households and businesses fail to bring in for repair or recycling. The results were consolidated by the United Nations’ Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Sustainable Cycles Programme.

Of 8,775 European households in six countries, the average household contains 74 e-products such as phones, tablets, laptops, electric tools, hair dryers, toasters and other appliances (excluding lamps), said a WEEE Forum press statement.  

Of that 74 average total e-products, 13 are being hoarded (9 of them unused but working, four broken). Portugal, Netherlands, Italy, Romania and Slovenia were surveyed, along with a separate one for the United Kingdom. 

The top five hoarded small electronic products were (in order): small electronics and accessories (eg, headphones, remotes), small equipment (eg, clocks, irons), small IT equipment (eg, hard drives, routers, keyboards, mice), mobile and smartphones, small food preparation appliances (eg, toasters, grills). 

Meanwhile, LED lamps ranked the top of the list of products most likely to be trashed.

Read more: Food can have toxic chemicals from recycling e-waste

“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,” said Pascal Leroy, director general of the WEEE Forum. 

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, Leroy added in a press statement.

Small EEE items such as cell phones, electric toothbrushes, toasters and cameras produced worldwide will weigh an estimated total of 24.5 million tonnes — four times the weight of the Great Pyramid of Giza, claimed Magdalena Charytanowicz of the WEEE Forum. 


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