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Bring it, don't bin it

Never before has the message about environmental responsibility been more pressing as it is today

Sustainability, climate action and circular economy development have become the rallying calls spurring us into collective action to safeguard the future of the planet.

And while Ireland has already made great strides turning waste into resources in recent decades - complacency can never be allowed to convince us that the job is done.

The recent approval of a landmark Circular Economy Bill by Government underpins Ireland’s shift from a “take-make-waste” linear model to a more sustainable pattern of production and consumption, minimising all types of waste to help significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

The nation's largest e-waste scheme, WEEE Ireland, is at the forefront of this shift, communicating these vital messages to the public and its industry members while delivering practical solutions to our national waste electrical, battery and lighting challenge.


“Bring It, Don’t Bin It!” is the critical message which reminds consumers – every single one of us – of the huge difference we can make to achieve a more resource-efficient future.

When it comes to our end-of-life Waste Electrical, Electronic, Batteries and Lighting Equipment (WEEE) too often we veer more towards convenience and mistakenly dispose of them in the rubbish bin or household skip, without giving much thought to the damage we may be causing the environment, as well as the waste of resources they contain.

But the more we understand the importance of reducing, reusing, repairing and recycling our appliances and devices – and pass this onto the next generation – the better chance we have of moving toward a future away from the environmental tragedy of electrical goods ending up in landfill.

Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), as well as waste batteries and lighting equipment, contain a large variety of materials - from base, ferrous and precious metals to plastics, glass and critical raw materials used in modern technology.

Anything with a plug, battery or circuit board contains a multitude of resources which can be used again in manufacturing, when properly recovered through recycling.

As a nation we are consuming more electrical goods than ever before

What is clear is that the sea change will not happen overnight, and as consumption rises, so too do environmental targets that manage these products at end of life.

One only has to look at the average family home in Ireland – it contains an average of 15 to 20 electrical items which have reached the end of their useful life, with new EU data indicating that each person is responsible for an average of 4kg to 5kg of hoarded electrical waste.

We are not alone in trying to stem the tide - globally, 2021’s mountain of waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) totalled about 57.4 million tonnes - greater than the weight of the Great Wall of China

While we may not manufacture or directly produce appliances at the scale of other countries around the world, electrical device imports and usage in Ireland is still staggering. Almost 60 million household electrical appliances, tech devices and lighting equipment were placed on the Irish market in 2020, with annual consumption rising to 21kg per person, up from 15kg four years previously.

“As a nation we are consuming more electrical goods than ever before,” says WEEE Ireland CEO, Leo Donovan.

“Research shows that if we continue to exploit resources at the same pace we do now, by 2050, we will need the resources of three Earths.

“Critical raw materials ending up in landfill sites can never be recovered for re-use when waste electricals, batteries and lighting aren’t properly recycled.”

Research shows that by weight, large appliances such as microwaves, ovens and refrigerators constitute the largest component of legacy e-waste.

But millions of smaller items are missing from the recycling stream and being dumped in general waste bins in Ireland every year, potentially exposing hidden hazards to environmental and human health.

Only 3.2 million of the estimated 10 million bulbs sold in 2019 were recycled – meaning up to 6.8 million replacement lightbulbs were likely lost to landfill via household rubbish bins.

There are grounds for optimism, however, and many victories in the battle to steer e-waste away from landfill and into the safety of authorised recycling drop off points at participating electrical retailers and local authority civic amenity centres for recycling.

Free public e-waste collection days organised by WEEE Ireland across the country have diverted hundreds of thousands of tonnes from landfill.

During lockdown in 2020 spring cleaning saw a record amount of electrical waste collected, despite Covid and travel restrictions. It’s vital that these positive habits are maintained.

Last year, WEEE Ireland was at the fore of a new electrical industry led circular training initiative to combat the major national shortage in white goods repair technicians - aiming to produce enough qualified experts to extend the lives of fixable electrical appliances.

Successfully increasing collection rates for e-waste recovery requires every link in the chain to be involved.

An incredible 85 pr cent of all material collected by WEEE Ireland is recovered for use again in manufacturing through both indigenous operators and specialist processors in Europe, meaning its recycling efforts have a significant impact on the environment.

“We all must increase our efforts to get more old and broken plug-in or battery-operated products to authorised facilities, instead of binning them,” said Mr. Donovan.

Since establishing in July 2005, WEEE Ireland has diverted more than 418,200 tonnes of e-waste from landfill sites, over 50 per cent of which came through retailer.

Local Authority civic amenity centres, a network of participating electrical retailers and WEEE Ireland free e-waste collection days offer a golden opportunity to end the scourge of binning and the terrible loss of valuable materials in our end-of-life electrical goods.