The world is a step back in the management ofe-waste, electronic waste, of which we thoroughly discussed in our podcast “disassembly lines” recorded in June. If the logic leads you to think that with the development of new technologies, things can only go better, it is a mistake.

In 2019 have been generated 53.6 million tonnes of WEEE, which is 7.3 kg per inhabitant.

  • air conditioners, refrigerators: 10.8 million tons (+7% compared to 2014)
  • TV and monitor: 6.7 million tonnes (-1%)
  • light bulbs: 0.9 million tonnes (+4%)
  • washing machines, ovens, dishwasher: 13.1 million tonnes (+5%)
  • fans, cameras, vacuum cleaners: 17.4 million tonnes (+4%)
  • smartphones, printers, IT products small: 4.7 million tons (+2%)

The mass thus lack a term of comparison: well, we think that in 2014 e-waste if it produced 9.2 million tonnes less. We were then more virtuous or simply less consumers? The report The Global E-waste Monitor 2020 would lean more to the second hypothesis, also because, with the expected increase in consumption and the average life of the products and tech destined to decline more and more it is expected that in 2030 – despite the agreements on the environment, and increasingly sophisticated technologies – the e-waste reaches the quota 74.7 million tons, double compared to 2014.

Little, or at least not enough to be a significant element. In 2019 was intended for recycling just 17.4% of e-waste, equivalent to 9.3 million tons of material. A positive fact, however, there is: compared to 2014 there was an increase of 1.8 million tons, but the rate of growth of production of electronic waste is higher than that of the recycling, making, therefore, compartment any improvement (generation, annual e-waste: +2 million tonnes; recycling of the annual e-waste: +0.4 million tonnes).

The accounts are made soon: if you recycle, 17.4% of electronic material, not if they recycle, 82.6%. We are talking about 44.3 million tonnes in the developed Countries end up

  • in the incinerator or landfill (8%)
  • recovered and sold, used or reconditioned
  • exported (sometimes illegally) to recover valuable material or to be reused (between 7% and 20%)
  • among the mixed waste with the packaging: in this case, the recovery of the material is still possible, but much less efficient compared to a disposal correct

Are only 78 Countries in the world that have adopted national policies for the management of technological waste: it is a very small number, however, higher than 67 Countries all over the 2017. In the poorer areas of the world the situation is even worse: there are no data on the recycling or recovery mode, as there are no real policies in this regard, with consequent risks for the health and wellbeing of the population.

Don’t recycle – but also ricliclare in a way that is not appropriate – means to enter in the ecosystem harmful substances such as mercury, chlorofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, and brominated flame retardants, the latter present in the polymers used for the production of computers and smartphones. Consider, for example, to refrigerators and air-conditioners discarded as not properly: alone have generated in 2019 environmental costs amounted to 98 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. These are negative externalities, i.e. costs of economic, social and environmental, that fall inevitably on the population.

Recycle means to contain the externalities – thus reducing costs – and to recover valuable materials contained within e-waste which can be re-used for other purposes. This is not little: it is only in 2019, the value of the raw materials present in WEEE was estimated at 57 billion dollars. Considering that today is recycled 17.4% of the products (see above), we obtain a value of the recovered material of 10 billion dollars.

  • e-waste generated in 2019: 53.6 million tonnes
  • recovery: 17,4%, or 9.3 million tonnes
  • the value of the raw materials contained in e-waste: 57 billion $
  • raw materials reusable by extracting from the e-waste: 4 million tons, or -15 million tons of CO2 equivalent released into the atmosphere
  • value of raw materials, reusable contained in e-waste: 10 billion $

In 2019, the demand for iron, aluminum and copper for the production of electronic products was approximately 39 million tons. If all the material recoverable had actually been extracted from the e-waste generated in the course of the year, you would have obtained 25 million tonnes of raw materials: a value that is very important, but still insufficient to cover the growing demand.

Credits: Pixabay

The Old Continent has contributed to the generation of WEEE and for the 12 million tons (about 53,6 total), passed from Asia (24,9) and America (13,1). Europe, however, is the first to e-waste generated per capita:

  • Europe: 16,2 kg
  • Oceania: 16,1 kg
  • America: 13.3 kg
  • Asia: 5.6 kg
  • Africa: 2.5 kg

Europe, which is also the first for recycling rate: the 42.5% of e-waste is recovered properly (5 million tonnes), a value significantly higher than in the rest of the world. The second continent virtuous is in fact Asia, with just 11.7%, followed by America with 9.4%, Oceania 8.8%, and Africa with 0.9%.

  • Eastern europe: 23%
  • Northern europe: 59%
  • Southern europe: 34%
  • Western Europe: 54%

In Europe, waste management is regulated by Directive 2012/19/EU, which states that the minimum collection rate to be reached each year must be equal to 65% of the average weight of the electronic products placed on the market in the three preceding years or 85% of e-waste generated in the territory of a Member State in 2018.

And in Italy?

  • e-waste is generated: the 1.06 million tonnes or 17.5 kg per capita
    • air conditioners, refrigerators: 242.000 tons
    • TV and monitor: 104,000 tonnes
    • bulbs: 9,000 tonnes
    • washing machines, ovens, dishwasher: 366.000 tons
    • fans, cameras, vacuum cleaners: 264 tons
    • smartphones, printers, IT products small: 79.000 tons
  • electronic devices placed on the market: 1,02 million tons
  • rate of collection of e-waste: 34% (369.000 tons)

Credits for the opening image of: Pixabay