Irish consumers recycle record level of electronic items

Record 18.7 million waste electrical items collected in 2021

Irish consumers recycled a record number of electrical items last year, but the country’s largest e-waste scheme has warned that its unsustainable EU targets need to change to reflect a more circular economy.

WEEE Ireland is one of the best performing recycling schemes in Europe, with a record 18.7 million waste electrical items collected in 2021, the organisation’s annual report has revealed.

Some 127,000 fridges and 205,000 TVs and monitors were recovered, as well as over 2.3 million light bulbs in a total takeback of 38,464 tonnes.

The recycling rate equated to 57 per cent of the average goods sold over a three-year period, which is less than the 65 per cent rate it has been set by EU authorities to reach relative to products sold over that time frame. However, WEEE Ireland questioned in its annual report whether the targets are fit for purpose, as they do not reflect products lasting longer or consumers increasingly opting to repair items, rather than throwing them out.

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“We need to recognise that many larger appliances don’t reach end-of-life for many years through design and repair strategies,” said WEEE Ireland chief executive Leo Donovan.

“The changing nature of products and their life cycles mean that the simple linear weight system is no longer fit for purpose.”

Mr Donovan added: “If a laptop is repaired or reused it is not currently counted towards Ireland’s environmental performance. New home technologies such as solar PV panels and heat pumps, for example, are large tonnage items which now have a lifespan of more than 15-20 years thanks to innovation by the producers.”