Roughly 5.3 billion mobile or smartphones will drop out of use this year, and only a small number of them will be disposed off properly, according to a report.
Brussels-based Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Forum conducted surveys to understand why so many households and businesses fail to bring electronic gadgets in for repair or recycling.
The surveys show that, of the 8,775 European households across five European Union countries Portugal, Netherlands, Italy, Romania and Slovenia and a separate UK survey, the average household contains 74 e-products such as phones, tablets, laptops, electric tools, hair dryers, toasters and other appliances (excluding lamps).
Of those 74 average total e-products, 13 are being hoarded — 9 of them unused but working and 4 broken.
Stacked flat atop one another at an average depth of 9 mm that many disused phones would rise roughly 50,000 km — 120 times higher than the International Space Station; one-eighth of the way to the Moon, according to a statement.
Further, despite their valuable gold, copper, silver, palladium and other recyclable components, experts expect a majority will disappear into drawers, closets, cupboards or garages, or be tossed into waste bins bound for landfills or incineration.
The top five hoarded small electrical and electronic equipments in Europe are small consumer electronics and accessories (headphones, remote controls, etc.), small household equipment (clocks, irons, etc.).
These also include small information technology equipment (external hard drives, routers, keyboards, mice, etc.), mobile and smart-phones and small equipment for food preparation (toasters, food processing, grills, etc.).
“We focussed 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, the organisation behind International E-Waste Day.
“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 said.
The report says LED lamps rank top of the list of products most likely to be trashed.
According to the survey results, share of hoarded small kitchen and household equipment, laptops and tablets of the total stock of those products in households country-wise is: Italy (29 per cent), The Netherlands (17 per cent), UK (14 per cent), Slovenia (12 pre cent), Romania (9 per cent) and Portugal (8 per cent).
The surveys were conducted from June to September, 2022, by the members of the WEEE Forum and the results were consolidated by the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Sustainable Cycles (SCYCLE) Programme.
“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,” said Leroy.
“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,” he added.
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