Billions of cell phones in drawers: tech waste is stored instead of recycled

Billions of cell phones in drawers: tech waste is stored instead of recycled

Billions of cell phones in drawers
Art scrap is stored instead of recycled

In addition to the mobile phone they use, almost everyone has at least one in their drawer. There it is located next to the old headphones and already replaced tablet. Globally, it’s a huge amount of recycling resources.

There are likely around 16 billion mobile phones worldwide, of which an estimated 5.3 billion will become waste this year alone. Only a small portion of it is disposed of properly, the WEEE Forum in Brussels and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in Geneva, the WEEE Forum in Brussels and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in Geneva said. If the discarded devices, which are about nine millimeters thick, were placed on top of each other, the height of the tower would be about 50,000 kilometers.

On average, 13 electrical and electronic devices are stored in European homes, even though they are no longer used or faulty, according to a survey conducted by the WEEE Forum in collaboration with UNITAR on E-waste Day on October 14. 8,775 households were included in Portugal, the Netherlands, Italy, Romania, and Slovenia, as well as in Great Britain. In all, there are an average of 74 electrical and electronic devices in every home, such as phones, tablets, laptops, power tools, hair dryers, and toasters.

Of these 74 devices, on average, 9 are no longer used and 4 have defects. Thirteen small electrical appliances per home could be recycled—instead, they often stayed in the drawer, on the shelf, or in the garage. Small consumer electronics and accessories (headphones, remote controls), small household appliances (watches, irons), small IT devices (external hard drives, routers, keyboards, mice), mobile phones, smartphones, appliances Small food prep (toasters, grills) are the most frequently stocked items.

As a reason to keep, 46 percent of survey respondents stated that they could use the device again in the future. Other reasons include intent to sell or give away the device (15 percent), sentimental value (13 percent), and not knowing how to dispose of it (7 percent). Justifications also included the presence of sensitive data on the devices and no incentive to recycle. “People tend not to realize that all these seemingly insignificant elements are of great value and together represent huge amounts on a global scale,” said Pascal Leroy, WEEE Forum General Manager.

No effect on the circular economy

“In 2022 alone, small electronic items such as cell 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 Charitanovic of WEEE. forum. The International Federation is pressing ahead with the development of a circular economy for e-waste and is calling on global politicians to implement extended producer responsibility. Subject to this legal requirement, the device manufacturer is also responsible for returning, moving, disposing or recycling the device.

E-Waste Day aims to raise public awareness of the recycling of electrical and electronic devices that contain valuable items such as gold, copper, silver or palladium. This year’s slogan is: “Recycle everything, no matter how small!” (Loosely translated: “No matter how small, recycling is a must!”). Regulators want to focus on the many smaller electronic devices found in European homes.

“The continued growth in production, consumption and disposal of electronic devices has enormous environmental and climate impacts,” said Virginius Sinkevichos, European Commissioner for the Environment and Oceans. Therefore the proposals and measures of the European Commission concern the entire life cycle of the product, from design to collection and appropriate treatment of waste.

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