By Carolina Curiel (ScrapMonster Author)
August 18, 2016 08:07:52 AM
EDGWARE (Scrap Monster): A research report prepared by the University of Limerick for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) predicts tremendous rise in e-waste volumes in the coming years. The e-waste volumes are expected to witness growth of 21% by 2018. The report will be launched during the two-day E-Waste Academy for Scientists (EWAS) Summit to be conducted by the University in partnership with United Nations University, Tokyo, Japan. It is published as part of the EPA Research Programme 2014–2020, financed by the Irish Government and administered by the EPA.
According to the report, the implementation of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive (2002/96/EC) in Ireland in August 2005 is being considered as the key milestone in Ireland’s recycling history. Prior to this, end-of-life practices for such equipment were unstructured. Under the new regulations, a take-back infrastructure at civic amenity sites and retailers was established. In addition, landfilling was banned and recycling was made mandatory. The producers were held responsible for recycling of all products placed in the market after 15 August, 2005.
The directive also led to creation of visible environmental management costs (vEMCs) funding for products already in market. These vEMCs associated with EEE sales have allowed the build-up of contingency funds for the ESM of historic WEEE. Although many of the vEMCs for large items of EEE have been discontinued, from 1 July 2014 they were re-introduced for certain categories.
However, with no way of accurately measuring or predicting the return rates of historic WEEE, it is still unclear how much longer it will be before all of the historic WEEE has made its way back into the return stream from recycling. This research was undertaken to address this and other related uncertainties, in order to provide an evidential basis for the continued use of vEMCs and predict the return rates of historic WEEE in Ireland in the future.
The report makes reference to the report published by the UNU Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) in 2014, which had stated that e-waste is one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the world. According to the report, nearly 41.8 million tonnes of electronic waste was generated across the world in 2014. Out of this, only 6.5 million tonnes were formally treated for reuse/recycling. The report also predicted that the global e-waste volumes are expected to grow by nearly 21% to 49.8 million tonnes by 2018.
Majority of the e-waste surveyed in the report was generated in Asia. The region accounted for 16 million tonnes in 2014. Europe’s total WEE generation amounted to 11.6 million tonnes. The region accounted for 15.6 kg per inhabitant WEE volume, the highest in the world. The lowest quantity of WEE of 0.6 million tonnes was generated by the Oceania region. Africa generated the lowest amount of WEEE per inhabitant: only 1.7 kg per inhabitant was generated in 2014.
The report states that nearly 40% of the WEE generated in the EU region is treated through approved recycling and reuse channels presently. The level is around 12% in the US and Canada. Nearly 24%-30% e-waste is formally treated in China and Japan. Australia with 1% treatment rate is the biggest laggard in formal treatment of discarded electronic waste.
The report recommends that a more detailed and in-depth set of statistical data should be gathered, from sources such as household surveys, on EEE product penetration across Irish homes, in order to facilitate a better understanding of WEEE retention rates across the country.