E-Waste | The UK Is Now 2nd Largest Contributor 25/04/23

By Holly, Mozillion Team

And is racing towards being Europe’s biggest

Data from the Global E-Waste monitor has shown Norway to be the largest E-Waste contributor at 26 kg per person, with the UK coming in second at 23.4 kg and Switzerland coming in at third.

E-Waste or ‘end of life electronics’ can be extremely toxic for the environment when dumped into landfill with lead and mercury leaching into soil and water. In fact, according to a study carried out by Uswitch; IT and telecoms e-waste has almost doubled in the UK between 2008 (19,053 tonnes) to 2022 (37,631 tonnes estimated), up 98%.

But it is hardly the fault of just us consumers, companies are also responsible for this rise. Professor Richard Herrington, Head of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum says of the electronics industry that:

“Most companies are driven by wanting to sell you a new product. They want you to get rid of your old phone or computer quickly and upgrade. It might be that we start demanding products that we know can be recycled and we should not accept a product that can’t be. They shouldn’t be selling something that can’t be recycled or repurposed.”

Uswitch mobile expert, Rehan Ali, said:

“Thankfully, by being more mindful about where your e-waste ends up, you can limit how much you produce and the impact it has on the environment. SIM only packages allow for the ongoing usage of mobile phones for longer or free people from contracts to buy a refurbished device instead.”

The study goes on to add that it predicts by 2024, the UK will overtake Norway and be the largest E-Waste contributor with the current trend showing the UK producing just under 55,000 tonnes of E-Waste by 2030.
Many companies need to make big changes including introducing a ‘take back’ system like they have in Norway and Switzerland, and there are also things that we, as consumers, can do to lower our personal contribution to the problem.

How to reduce your e-waste

Postpone upgrading your devices for as long as you can. This will also save you a lot of money as well as safeguarding the environment.

Sell (or give away) your devices so they can be reused by someone else. You can usually sell them privately or on a marketplace for more compared to trading in.

Buy preowned or refurbished. Similar to buying a second-hand car, not only does this save you from paying a premium for the same product but it also helps the environment and reduces the need for new ones to be made. Many refurbished products, especially mobile phones, can cost hundreds less than buying brand new and often include a warranty just like a new one would.

Fix and share devices where you can. Often, our electronics only need a minor repair to start working again and then they can be passed on and enjoyed for a second or third time. There are also charities that will take them and get value for them which is a win/win.

Try returning the product to the manufacturer. If the item is totally broken, the first port of call should be the manufacturer. Ask if they have a process for returning old electronics and their materials for credit. Most won’t take back goods at the end of their working life, but some will, and the only way market practice and accountability will change is if enough consumers advocate for it.

Take them to an E-Waste facility. There are local organisations that will take old electronics, you can find your nearest one here: https://www.recycleyourelectricals.org.uk/

Purchase electronics responsibly. If you are a business owner, be aware that the cheapest deal may not be the best for the planet. Try to only work with companies that use sustainably sourced materials, refurbished tech and who offer a “take back” service for broken or no longer required electronics.