The report by Material Focus has discovered that 300,000 tonnes of WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) are thrown away each year by UK homes and businesses. This waste contains large amounts of invaluable materials, including gold, silver and palladium. These materials are often mined for virgin equivalents, which leaves an environmental footprint.
What is WEEE?
WEEE stands for Waste and Electrical and Electronic Equipment. The term includes items such as:
- large household appliances (eg fridges, cookers, microwaves)
- small household appliances (eg vacuum cleaners, irons, toasters)
- IT and telecommunications equipments (eg personal computers, copying equipments, telephones)
- cosumer equipments (radios, televisions, camcorders)
- Lighting equipment
If not treated properly, WEEE can transmit toxic chemicals into the environment, damaging the ecosystem and the people who live there. For this reason, any company who puts these items onto the market have obligations under the WEEE regulations to manage and dispose of them properly.
The Economic Effects of Material Waste
Material Waste’s report states that that the UK is losing at least £14 million worth of important materials each year through e-waste.
“If the UK invested in new processing infrastructure, we could capture more of these valuable materials”, Scott Butler, executive director of Material Focus, said.
Butler also pointed to investment opportunities in “building a circular economy for critical raw materials in the UK.” With the demand for raw materials growing, the creation of jobs to recover these materials is imperative to economic growth.
The UK is one of the largest generators of e-waste in the world; 1.6 million tonnes of new electricals are bought each year, with 500,000 tonnes wasted through landfill, hoarding, stealing, or illegal exportation. With proper WEEE refulations and infrastructure, many experts believe that we would be able to properly recover these materials.