IT and telecoms e-waste has increased in the UK by 98% since 2008, according to analysis

IT & telecoms e-waste in the UK has increased by 98% since 2008, according to new analysis from comparison and switching service, Uswitch.

The study analysed data from the Environment Agency (EA) to reveal the amount of IT and telecommunications electronic waste generated in the UK since 2008.

The increase in e-waste from 2008 to 2022 was then used to estimate the amount of e-waste the UK could produce by 2030.

The research also analysed Global E-waste Monitor data to reveal the countries that produce the most e-waste per person.

“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.”

It suggests Norway produces the most e-waste at 26 kg per person. While it still has some way to go, Norway has taken steps to improve its e-waste management through a ‘take back’ scheme.

The UK generates the second-highest amount of e-waste per capita in the world, with 23.9 kg, according to the analysis.

Recent research suggests that by 2024, the UK will overtake Norway to become the world’s biggest contributor.

Switzerland is third on the list, producing 23.4 kg per capita of e-waste. Similarly to Norway, Switzerland has a ‘take-back’ system to encourage companies to tackle the e-waste issue.

Year Household waste electrical and electronic equipment (tonnes)
2008 19,053
2009 24,553
2010 29,666
2011 34,806
2012 33,904
2013 32,769
2014 35,988
2015 47,268
2016 52,008
2017 48,563
2018 45,013
2019 44,798
2020 31,974
2021 36,681
2022 37,631*
2023 46,557**
2024 47,755**
2025 48,952**
2026 50,149**
2027 51,347**
2028 52,544**
2029 53,741**
2030 54,939**

Table 1: The total amount of e-waste produced in the UK *Estimate based on Jan to Jun 2022 figures **Estimates based on 2008 – 2022 figures

Since records began in 2008, the amount of IT and telecoms waste has steadily grown. In 2008 there were 19,053 tonnes, which rose to 52,008 tonnes in 2016 (a 173% increase).

While this started to tail off in the following years, particularly in 2020 due to the pandemic, there are signs that e-waste has started to rise once again.

In total, IT and telecoms e-waste has increased by just under double (98%) between 2008 to 2022. The data also suggests the UK could be generating just under 55,000 tonnes by 2030.

Rank Country National e-waste legislation/policy or regulation in place E-waste generated (kt) E-waste generated per capita (kg)
1 Norway Yes 139 26.0
2 United Kingdom Yes 1,598 23.9
3 Switzerland Yes 201 23.4
4 Denmark Yes 130 22.4
5 Australia Yes 554 21.7
6 Netherlands Yes 373 21.6
7 Iceland Yes 8 21.4
8 France Yes 1,362 21.0
8 United States Yes 6,918 21.0
10 Belgium Yes 234 20.4
10 Japan Yes 2,569 20.4

Table 2: The countries that produce the most e-waste

Uswitch mobile expert, Rehan Ali, said: “Electronic devices contain hazardous substances, therefore they must be handled with care when no longer needed. The consequences of improper e-waste disposal can pose threats to human health and pollute ecosystems for generations to come, with toxic chemicals released into our soils, water and atmosphere.

“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 handsets, without the continuous need for device upgrades. Similarly, SIM only deals can be purchased alongside refurbished mobile phones.

“In addition to environmental benefits, SIM only deals are also easier on your bills. You get an allowance of data, calls and texts from a mobile provider without having to cover the cost of a new handset. This means SIM only packages are often much cheaper than pay monthly phone contracts.”

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