Clear-out urged as study finds Ireland generates millions of kilos of e-waste
Irish households are being urged to begin a collective clear-out of small electronic waste this weekend, after a United Nations study showed Irish consumers generated 11 million kilos of electronic waste last year.
This is equivalent to 25 million items containing precious and valuable metals.
Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Ireland says this equates to 25 million items of so-called “invisible e-waste”.
Included in this are electronic toys, vapes, cables, remote controls, and USB sticks.
WEEE Ireland says 60% of these items never come back through the e-waste recycling system.
Instead, they are lying in landfill sites, homes and sheds all over the country.
It warns that the precious and valuable metals contained within these items will be lost forever unless they enter Ireland’s recycling system.
Head of Environmental Compliance and Membership at WEEE Ireland Elizabeth O’Reilly said this type of waste often goes unnoticed with its recycling and re-use potential being overlooked.
The report from the UN Institute for Training and Research says 9 billion kilos of this type of small e-waste was generated globally last year.
The recoverable raw materials contained within those items are worth an estimated $10 billion.
The largest category includes 7.3 billion small battery or rechargeable toys such as racing cars, electric train sets, music toys, gaming equipment, and drones.
The second largest category is made up of 5.5 billion items of household monitoring equipment including alarms.
This is followed by 4 billion household tools including drills, saws, pressure washers and lawnmowers.
The UN says 950 million kilograms of cables linked to such items were thrown away last year, enough to circle the earth 107 times.
The report also highlights that 844 million vapes were discarded. Collectively these vapes weighed as much as six Eiffel Towers and contained enough lithium to power 15,000 electric cars.
Ms O’Reilly said Irish people have performed “exceptionally well” in recycling larger household items such as fridges and washing machines.
“We now need that great effort extended to these forgotten, smaller electronic items.
“Anything with a plug, battery or cable is free to recycle in local authority sites or participating electrical retailers, and the processing of all this takes place at our recycling partner, KMK Metals in Tullamore, Co Offaly” she said.