The Weee Forum alerts on the quantities of unused electronic products not collected

Billions of unused electrical and electronic equipment, including mobile phones, are not collected. The Weee Forum suggests empowering cardholders to increase deposits.

The professional association of co-organizations responsible for the management of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) deplores the fact that Europeans keep a large number of small items of unused equipment. However, explains the Weee Forum, telephones and other electronic equipment represent a deposit of rare metals: 800g of silver, per ton of printed circuits, 150g of gold and 50g of palladium.

To increase fundraising, the Weee Forum wishes to implement new approaches. In particular, he pleads for the responsibility that today falls to producers to be extended to all players. The objective would be to subject all entities that hold electronic waste to minimum legal obligations. Another proposal: to create return systems backed by instructions. The co-organizations also advocate international harmonization of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regime.

These ideas are being put forward as the European co-organizations struggle to achieve the collection targets imposed on them by European regulations. The subject gave rise to a skirmish, at the end of 2021, between the public authorities and the French co-organizations, which consider it very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve European objectives. And to remember that they make collection boxes available to individuals in certain shops, that they offer the recovery of equipment when selling new products or even implement mailing operations for mobile phones.

A third of European mobiles are unused

Unused phones would constitute a pile of about 50,000 km, or 120 times the distance separating us from the international space station

In 2022, around 5.3 billion mobile phones will become waste, out of a total of around 16 billion in use. Only a small fraction will be correctly eliminatedalert the Weee Forum. In order to convince of the excessiveness of this stock of unused equipment, the association uses a stunning image: Stacked flat on top of each other, with an average thickness of 9mm, the unused telephones would constitute a pile of about 50,000 km, or 120 times the distance separating us from the international space station or an eighth of the way to the moon. The fear of the Weee Forum is that these mobiles will end up in landfills or incinerated. Another advanced figure: all the small equipment produced this year totals a mass of 24.5 million tonnes.

Although Europe is ahead, given the regulations that impose the collection of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), the co-organizations of the various extended liability schemes for producers of electrical and electronic equipment deplore that around 30% of mobiles in circulation in Europe are in fact no longer used.

A survey of 8,775 households in six European countries (Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, the United Kingdom and Slovenia) shows that each household owns, on average, 74 electrical and electronic products (excluding lamps). Thirteen of them are hoarded, that is to say kept without being used. And among these 13 products, four are broken. The five most stocked are small household equipment (clocks, irons, for example), small computer equipment (external hard drives, routers, keyboards, mice, etc.), mobile phones and small household appliances (grill- bread, food processors, etc.).

What justifies the conservation of these unused products? The first reason is the possibility of using it later (for 46% of people questioned). Then comes the possibility of selling or giving away this equipment (15%), the sentimental value associated with the object (13%) and the fact that the equipment could have value in the future (9%).

Article published on October 18, 2022

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