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Electronic Waste is Good for The Planet

Time:2018-03-28 16:02 Author:Suny Group

Electronic waste is a global blight, but handled properly it is one of the planet’s most lucrative opportunities to save itself.

When dumped or destroyed or otherwise mistreated, the million of tonnes of electronics discarded across the globe every year pose a real and potentially devastating threat to human health and to the well-being of the planet.

But when recycled carefully, discarded electronics can provide an incredibly rich seam of precious metals and other raw materials that would be either impossible or very difficult to extract from the earth.

Such work has already coined a new phrase, “urban mining”. And in money terms, urban mining could be hugely profitable, and already is for those who have taken the lead.

In 2016, almost €20 billion worth of gold, €15 billion worth of plastics, €10 billion worth of copper, €3.5 billion worth of iron and aluminium, and just under €1 billion worth of silver could have been recovered.

However, the United Nations warns that just 20 per cent of e-waste is properly recycled. Tens of billions of euro are being thrown away every year.

More troubling, however, the failure to deal properly with the huge volume of potentially hazardous e-waste is releasing toxic chemicals into an already challenged environment.

There is a little comfort to be drawn from the fact that Irish consumers are among the best performers when it comes to recycling electronics. Even still, there is more to do.

In 2016, we recycled 34,482 tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment – 10kg of e-waste per person, up 12 per cent on the year before, according to Waste, Electrical and Electronic Equipment Ireland.

Better known as WEEE Ireland, it is a not-for-profit organisation, founded by producers of electrical and electronic appliances to help them comply with the legal obligations imposed by EU directives.

By next year, WEEE wants 65 per cent of all e-waste in Ireland to be recycled. Such a number is very high by global standards, but it still means that 35 per cent of the end-of-life electronics used by Irish people are dumped.

Eleven per cent of Irish people admit they put small electronic waste out with their general waste, while 80 per cent admit to hoarding waste and obsolete IT gadgets at home.

This is both environmentally and economically unsound.