Electrical waste recycling drops in January after rise in 2020

Groups urges public not to dispose of batteries and electrical products in landfill

A total of 11,736 tonnes of electrical waste were recycled in local authority centres in 2020, compared with 10,635 in the previous year, according to data from WEEE Ireland. Photograph: iStock

A total of 11,736 tonnes of electrical waste were recycled in local authority centres in 2020, compared with 10,635 in the previous year, according to data from WEEE Ireland. Photograph: iStock

 

The amount of electrical waste recycled at local authority centres increased by 10 per cent last year, the equivalent of half a million small appliances, a waste management organisation has said.

However, WEEE Ireland, the country’s largest e-waste recycling scheme, fears this progress could be lost as there has been a decrease in recycling so far this year.

A total of 11,736 tonnes of electrical waste were recycled in local authority centres in 2020, compared with 10,635 in the previous year, according to data from WEEE Ireland.

However, in January there was a 7 per cent decrease in electrical recycling when compared with the same month last year.

The organisation said this decrease could be partly due to the 5km travel restriction in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Leo Donovan, chief executive of WEEE Ireland, said Irish people’s behaviours and attitudes towards recycling electrical waste “are improving”, adding that he welcomed the increased recycling levels.

“Unfortunately, in January we saw a reverse in that behaviour and we would ask people to seriously consider the danger and environmental impact of getting rid of e-waste in household bins,” he said.

“We need people to support a transition towards a more circular economy, which aims to keep our resources in circulation for longer.”

The organisation warned that small items containing batteries could be dangerous to dispose of in general waste and that the valuable raw materials ending up in landfill sites could never be recovered for reuse.

WEEE Ireland added that for Ireland to comply with EU targets, electrical waste recycling should have increased by over 10 per cent on last year’s tonnages to keep pace with the growing volume of electrical appliances entering the Irish market every year.

“Recycling means that 85 per cent of the valuable raw materials used in these products – such as plastics, glass and metals – can be used again when safely recovered and treated through authorised recycling centres,” said Mr Donovan.

“Some electronic products also contain batteries, hazardous materials and dangerous gases which can cause serious fires, damage to the environment and human health, if improperly disposed of.”

He added: “We would encourage people during the current Level 5 restrictions to use this time to gather up any end-of-life electrical items and waste batteries in their homes and once restrictions are lifted, to take them to their local authority recycling centre, electrical retail shop or hardware store.”

Mr Donovan also encouraged individuals who live near the centres, which are located in close proximity to urban centres, to recycle products now, due to smaller queues.

Electronic waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world. It is estimated that a new high of 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste were generated across the planet in 2019.

There are 90 local authority recycling centres across Ireland, all of which are open and free of charge to the public for waste electrical and electronic equipment and waste battery recycling.

Any household electrical item with a plug or battery and at the end of its useful life can be left at these centres.