The UN has estimated that in 2022 alone, 24.5 million tonnes of small e-waste will be produced worldwide. This is as much as four times the weight of the Great Pyramid of Giza!
Due to their small size, items such as cell phones, electric toothbrushes, toasters, and cameras are often discarded incorrectly, and they make up a significant proportion of the 8% of all e-waste that is thrown in general waste bins, which is subsequently landfilled or incinerated. This means the important raw materials they contain cannot be extracted and are lost. In Europe, up to 1.4 kg of e-waste per inhabitant ends up in the general waste bin every year. On top of this, small appliances are easily stored in cupboards, garages, basements, and attics and quickly forgotten about. In an average European household, up to 5 kg of e-devices per person are hoarded in this way.
“With this fifth edition of the International E-Waste Day, we want to remind people of the importance of every single piece of electronics or electrical product that is forgotten about in household drawers around the world,” says Pascal Leroy of the WEEE Forum, the organization behind the initiative. “These devices offer many important resources that can be used in the production of new electronic devices or other equipment, such as wind turbines, electric car batteries or solar panels—all crucial for the green, digital transition to low-carbon societies.”
From one tonne of printed circuit boards that are found in many small electronic devices such as cameras, phones and tablets, 800 grammes of silver, 150 grammes of gold and 50 grammes of palladium can be extracted from one tonne of printed circuit boards.
Efforts are being made around the globe to reverse this growing trend. 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. 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.
Over 170 organizations from fifty countries participated in #ewasteday last year.