UN forecasts drop in WEEE recycling rate

UN forecasts drop in WEEE recycling rate

The United Nations (UN) reports a concerning trend in the generation of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), which is increasing at a rate five times faster than documented recycling efforts.

According to the Global E-Waste Monitor 2024 released by the UN, the production of WEEE reached a record high of 62 million tonnes in 2022, marking an 82% increase since 2010. Projections suggest this figure could surge to 82 million tonnes by 2030.

This rapid escalation results in significant wastage of valuable resources, with only 1% of the demand for rare earth elements being met through WEEE recycling. Shockingly, less than a quarter of the total WEEE produced in 2022 was properly collected and recycled, leaving approximately $62 billion (£48.5 billion) worth of recoverable natural resources unutilized and heightening pollution risks.

The UN anticipates a decline in documented collection and recycling rates from 22.3% in 2022 to 20% by 2030, attributing this decrease to recycling efforts failing to match the growth of WEEE. However, the report highlights the potential benefits of achieving a 60% collection and recycling rate by 2030, estimating that the benefits would outweigh the costs by over $38 billion.

Although Europe boasts a relatively higher formal collection and recycling rate of 42.8%, progress towards meeting legally binding collection targets within EU member states remains stagnant.

In terms of per capita WEEE rates, the UK ranks among the highest in Europe, trailing behind only Norway. Conversely, African countries exhibit the lowest rates of WEEE generation but struggle with recycling, with rates falling below 1%.

Asia accounts for nearly half of the world’s WEEE, totaling 30 billion kg, yet many Asian countries have made minimal progress in WEEE management, with few enacting legislation or establishing clear collection targets.

A significant portion of the world’s WEEE, approximately 20 billion kg, comprises small equipment such as toys, microwave ovens, vacuum cleaners, and e-cigarettes. However, global recycling rates for this category remain alarmingly low, standing at only 12%.

Source: https://www.mrw.co.uk/news/un-forecasts-drop-in-weee-recycling-rate-21-03-2024/

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