World e-waste set to reach nearly 60m tonnes in 2021

13 Oct 2021

Image: © imagesbykenny/

WEEE Ireland said the average Irish household has between 15 and 20 broken and unused electrical items.

Experts have warned that the amount of electrical waste generated globally will reach almost 60m tonnes this year.

Ahead of International E-Waste Day tomorrow (14 October), households, businesses and governments have been called on to support efforts to recycle dead or unused plug-in or battery-operated products.

“This year’s focus for International E-Waste Day is the crucial role each of us has in making circularity a reality for e-products,” said Pascal Leroy, director general of the WEEE Forum, the organisation behind International E-Waste Day.

“85pc of all material that we collect is recovered for use again in manufacturing through both indigenous operators and specialist processors in Europe, meaning our recycling efforts have a significant impact on the environment.”

Global e-waste production is growing annually by 3pc to 4pc, according to WEEE, a problem attributed to higher consumption rates of electronics, shorter product lifecycles and limited repair options.

While authorised facilities exist where old and broken electrical products can either be recycled or repaired, it said the amount of e-waste in 2021 will total about 57.4m tonnes.

In Ireland, almost 60m household electrical appliances, tech devices and lighting equipment were placed on the market in 2020. As highlighted by the EU recently, the bulk of the e-waste problem is caused by discarded large appliances such as ovens, fridges and microwaves.

According to WEEE Ireland, the national division of the larger Belgium-based WEEE Forum, Irish homes contain an average of 15 to 20 electrical items that are broken or unused.

“Recycling one microwave weighing around 11.5kg or a vacuum cleaner weighing 4kg goes a long way towards hitting our recycling targets and getting valuable rare earth metals back into our system to be put to good use,” said Leo Donovan, CEO of WEEE Ireland.

“Not only does it require a lot more energy to recover metals from the ground than it does to recover it from recycling, but there is only a limited amount of these materials on earth,” he added.

Irish IT recycling company Vyta recently said it has seen a growth in demand from companies recycling old, redundant IT equipment. Faye Thomas, CCO at Vyta, said 2021 turned out to be a very strong year for the company, despite the restrictions imposed by the global pandemic.

“We want to educate our customers about the benefits of recycling and using refurbished devices that not only reduce their carbon footprint, but also comply with stringent and ever-changing data regulations.”

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Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic