E-waste: the role of consumers in making circularity a reality for e-products

To celebrate this year’s edition of International E-waste Day, an initiative by the WEEE Forum, APPLiA produced a 3-part short animated series to raise awareness about the rising e-waste concern and guide consumers towards correct e-waste disposal practices, for the environment and global society.

To celebrate this year’s edition of International E-waste Day, an initiative by the WEEE Forum, APPLiA produced a 3-part short animated series to raise awareness about the rising e-waste concern and guide consumers towards correct e-waste disposal practices, for the environment and global society.

Consumers play a key role in making circularity a reality for e-products. More

Today, 90% of the materials coming from the officially collected appliances, when they have reached their end of life, are recovered and ready to enter again into the manufacturing circles. Nevertheless, two-thirds of precious resources remains undocumented and is not coming back into material loops as secondary raw material, making it unclear how this waste is collected and thereafter treated. There are many obstacles to reaching higher collection and recycling rates, one of which is that few consumers are aware of this rising global issue and the relative best practices to correctly dispose of their old or broken appliances. Most often, small-size e-products end up in normal waste bins and are not subjected to proper recycling, resulting in a loss of precious materials. It is estimated that in EU countries, 0.6 Mt of e-waste ends up in waste bins. This is problematic because of the presence of harmful substances that, if not properly handled, can pose significant risks to the environment and to human health. Consumers play a key role in making circularity a reality for e-products. When appliances come to the end of their life, recycled waste is injected back into the economy in the form of a new product - for instance, a fridge can become a new refrigerator and the refrigerator can also become a vacuum cleaner, a coffee machine or even a bicycle. Indeed, e-waste contains several fine resources. By the numbers, the value of raw materials in the global e-waste generated in 2019, is equal to approximately $57 billion USD.

When it comes to discarding old and broken appliances, it is important to know all the options available. More

To make sure no resources are wasted, all citizens should know the existing options available. When appliances can still do the job well or only need a little fix, they can be brought to either a reuse centre or a professional repairman. If, instead, it is time for them to become new products, there are two possibilities. Big appliances like fridges, washing machines and air conditioners would be taken straight ahead by the shop delivering your new product, thanks to take-back schemes financed by manufacturers. Small appliances like coffee machines, toothbrushes or toasters, can be brought to container parks, to the shop from which you are buying your new product or to the nearest supermarket. From there, collection networks take care of collecting and shipping the e-waste to a recycling centre. 

Finding the closest e-waste collection points. More 

When it comes to disposing of old or broken appliances, knowing the local e-waste recycling centres that are closer to us is of utmost importance, in order to discourage any bad practice that may stem from a joint combination of lack of timing and information. Recupel is the Association organising the collection and process of discarded electro-appliances, in Belgium. By browsing their website, a comprehensive map of the country allows consumers  to find their nearest recycling point based on the category of e-waste their product  directly applies to and guides them through the whole recycling process, detailing the advantages that come with it.

Circular economy is a whole principle and recycling is an important step of it. To learn more, watch APPLiA’s short animated series, at this link.