Irish consumers recycled a record number of electrical items last year, but WEEE Ireland has warned that its unsustainable targets need to change to reflect a more circular economy.
WEEE Ireland says that despite ever-rising public awareness and participation, targets do not count circular strategies already undertaken by businesses and consumers to prevent e-waste, including reuse and repair.
The organisation’s annual report has revealed a record 18.7 million waste electrical items were collected in 2021.
127,000 fridges and 205,000 TVs and monitors were recovered, as well as over 2.3 million lightbulbs in a total takeback of 38,464 tonnes – 57% of the average goods sold over a three-year period, the WEEE Ireland report says.
The equivalent of over 54 million used AA portable batteries were also prevented from ending up in landfills.
However, WEEE Ireland says the changing nature of products that power people’s lives mean that the recycling versus sales targets that benchmark the European WEEE system is no longer fit for purpose.
WEEE Ireland CEO, Leo Donovan, said: “As a nation, we are consuming more electrical goods than ever. The annual tonnage on the market rose by 50% in six years to 22kg a head last year, with 69 million units placed on the market in 2021.
“We need to recognise that many larger appliances don’t reach the end of life for many years through design and repair strategies.”
The changing nature of products and their lifecycles, mean that the simple linear weight system is no longer fit for purpose.
“We need targets to benchmark our systems and drive improvement, but the legacy linear WEEE targets are not measuring true progress across the European e-waste system, and you must ask if they are fit for purpose.
“If we are buying more electronics, we need to adopt a one plug in, one plug out mantra as we do not have enough raw materials in the ground to keep up with growing global demand.”
WEEE Ireland says it accounts for over two thirds of all national waste electrical and electronics collection activity on behalf of 1,296 producer members.
Other statistics in the WEEE Ireland report say that in 2021, the equivalent of 231,179 tonnes of CO2 emissions was avoided by recycling e-waste through the WEEE Ireland Scheme as opposed to landfill, which it says is the equivalent of the annual carbon consumption of 4,624 hectares of trees.