Electronic waste recycling generates 200 new jobs

19 Jul 2006

Some 21.5 million tonnes of electrical items — the equivalent of five kettles for every man, woman and child in Ireland — have been collected since the WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) recycling scheme came into force last August.

According to figures released yesterday by the Minister for the Environment Dick Roche TD, 85,000 fridge freezers, 78,000 TVs and almost 40,000 power tools were collected since 13 August 2005.

“By the end of May this year, 21,500 tonnes were collected nationally, equivalent to an annual collection rate of 6.8kg per person,” Minister Roche said. “Our EU target is to reach 4kg per person by the end of 2008. This performance places us on course to achieving 170pc of our target within the first 12 months and to double our EU target by the end of 2008.

Roche said that the implementation of the directive has not led to any adverse impact on sales or employment and had in fact led to the creation of 200 direct new jobs.

The news was welcomed by the head of the IBEC environment unit, Donal Buckley, who said that two million items were collected and recycled between August 2005 and May 2006 by the two authorised schemes: WEEE Ireland and ERP Ireland.

“This is the equivalent of five kettles for every man, woman and child in the country,” said Buckley. “Current recycling rates of old electrical items (on a per capita basis in Ireland) is 6.7 kg — well in excess of the 4kg target set by the EU in the WEEE Directive but below the 15-25kg produced by each person annually.

Buckley particularly welcomed the increase in indigenous employment associated with the legislation. “Over 200 new direct jobs have been created by the implementation of this Directive and many more indirectly. The establishment of recycling facilities in Ireland is very encouraging and shows that business has capitalised on the commercial opportunities the collection of WEEE presents.”

Despite the progress so far, Leo Donovan, chief executive of WEEE Ireland, warned that more work will have to be done to manage electronic waste. “Electronic waste is the fastest-growing waste stream across Europe. And while significant amounts of equipment have been collected and safely recycled to date, a huge mountain of electronic waste is and will continue to be generated over the coming months and years. So we would very much encourage all stakeholders to continue to assist in the take-back and recycling scheme.”

There are further opportunities to expand on the progress so far, said John Hayes, executive officer of ERP Ireland, particularly in the return of small electronic and electrical equipment.

By John Kennedy