E-waste and the circular economy

Last month, the government announced that the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) will be carrying out an inquiry into electronic waste and the circular economy. The EAC which oversees environmental protection and sustainable development will be looking at e-waste and the circular economy, examining how the UK can implement a circular economy for electrical goods and what issues are facing the electronic waste industry.

The problem of e-waste

The EAC states that nearly 45million tonnes of electronic waste, also known as e-waste, was produced globally in 2017 with Europe and the US producing almost half of that. The UK produces 24.9kg of e-waste per person which is higher than the EU average of 17.7kg. The use of electronic devices including smart phones, tablets and games consoles is growing exponentially with advances in technology, built in obsolescence and falling prices. E-waste is very clearly a growing problem!

Today’s electrical and electronic equipment contains a vast array of metals and chemical that can be harmful to humans and/or the environment. Some of these, such as silver, good, copper, platinum and palladium, contain value that can be extracted and recycled if the WEEE is processed effectively. Problems arise in the UK when WEEE is not disposed of compliantly or through approved authorised facilities.

Implementing a circular economy for electronic waste

Traditionally, we have taken resources, made products and disposed of them when we no longer want or require them. This ‘linear economy’ approach is not sustainable and needs to change if we are to live within the means of our planet. Moving to a circular economy for electronic waste involves:

  • Designing and creating electronic products that can be easily repaired and refurbished to extend their lifecycle
  • Ensuring that there are facilities to repair and refurbish products and markets in the UK for reused electronic products
  • Recovering valuable materials from items that can no longer re reused

There are challenges for everyone – from those producing and selling electronic products, those buying and using them, and for those dealing with unwanted or broken items.

Wiser Recycling and the circular economy for e-waste

Wiser Recycling has been enabling the reuse of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) since we began operation in 2002. We screen items that arrive at our facilities for reuse potential (unless specifically requested to do otherwise by clients).

Fridges set aside for reuse at Wiser Recycling's Thetford facility for waste electrical and electronic equipmentWe follow WRAP protocol to function test and also carry out safety tests (PAT) on all equipment including washing machines, televisions, computers and laptops, fridges and freezers. Items that pass all tests are set aside for reuse.

We work with third parties – charities and social enterprises – to enable these items to be reused, extending their lifecycle.

Having opened our new Norfolk WEEE facility last year, we are in the process of expanding our reuse services. Watch this space!

For environmentally responsible and compliant reuse and recycling services for all your e-waste and other WEEE, contact us on 01480 464111.