Over 5 billion smartphones will become waste in 2022

Experts expect roughly 5.3 billion smartphones will drop out of use this year, according to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Forum.

Stacked flat atop one another at an average depth of 9 mm that many disused phones would rise roughly 50,000 km – 120 times higher than the International Space Station; one-eighth of the way to the moon.

And, despite their valuable gold, copper, silver, palladium and other recyclable components, experts expect a majority will disappear into drawers, closets, cupboards or garages, or be tossed into waste bins bound for landfills or incineration (see background notes, appended).

And, surprisingly, mobile phones rank 4th among small Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) products most often hoarded by consumers, WEEE Forum says.

“People tend not to realise that all these seemingly insignificant items have a lot of value, and together at a global level represent massive volumes.

Hoarding of the many types of small, unused, dead or broken plug-in and battery-operated products is the focus of this year’s 5th annual International E-Waste Day (Friday Oct. 14)

Organisers released the results of surveys conducted to reveal why so many households and businesses fail to bring WEEE in for repair or recycling.

The surveys were conducted from June to September, 2022 by the members of the WEEE Forum and the results were consolidated by the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Sustainable Cycles (SCYCLE) Programme.


The surveys show that, of  8,775 European households in six countries representing the diversity of the European Union – Portugal, Netherlands, Italy, Romania and Slovenia, and separate UK survey –– the average household contains 74 e-products such as phones, tablets, laptops, electric tools, hair dryers, toasters and other appliances (excluding lamps).

Of that 74 average total e-products, 13 are being hoarded (9 of them unused but working, 4 broken).

The top hoarded small EEE products (by number of pieces) in Europe include headphones, remote controls, clocks, irons, external hard drives, routers, keyboards, mice and more.

Says Pascal Leroy, Director General of the WEEE Forum, the organisation behind International E-Waste Day: “We focussed this year on small e-waste items because it is very easy for them to accumulate unused and unnoticed in households, or to be tossed into the ordinary garbage bin.

“People tend not to realise that all these seemingly insignificant items have a lot of value, and together at a global level represent massive volumes.”

“The producer responsibility organisations in the WEEE Forum that manage the collection of e-waste are constantly working to make the proper disposal of small e-waste simple and convenient for users and households.

“Providing collection boxes in supermarkets, pick up of small broken appliances upon delivery of new ones and offering PO Boxes to return small e-waste are just some of the initiatives introduced to encourage the return of these items.”

Send this to a friend