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Recycling e-waste is €3.7bn opportunity for Europe, says study

Recycling e-waste is €3.7bn opportunity for Europe, says study

Recycling e-waste is €3.7bn opportunity for Europe, says study

A new study has drawn attention to the enormous economic potential of recycling the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) generated across Europe.

Called 'Recycling of WEEEs: an economic assessment of present and future e-waste streams', the research paper - which has won Elsevier's prestigious Atlas Award - is the work of scientists from the University of L'Aquila and Politecnico di Milano in Italy, as well as the UK's University of Sheffield.

It states that the more effective recycling of e-waste could have contributed an extra €2.15 billion (£1.57 billion) to the European economy last year, reducing pollution into the bargain by minimising device manufacturers' dependence on unprocessed resources.

Furthermore, because WEEE increases at a rate of between three and five per cent per year, making it one of the world's fastest-growing waste streams, the economic opportunity should climb accordingly. Even by 2020, effective e-waste recycling could be worth as much as €3.67 billion, the study's analysis shows.

Professor Lenny Koh, director of the University of Sheffield's Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre and one of the paper's authors, said the research "has strong relevance to addressing global issues of materials availability and security, [and] reducing reliance on unused non-renewable materials".

One of the reasons that recycling WEEEs represents such a significant potential revenue stream is the wealth of precious, critical and rare earth materials used in most electronics. Devices like laptops, monitors, smartphones, hard drives and tablets can contain gold and platinum, for example, which without effective recycling might end up going to landfill.

"The recycling of e-waste could allow the diminishing use of virgin resources in manufacturing and, consequently, it could contribute in reducing environmental pollution," Professor Koh said.

She continued: "Given that [the] EU has tried over the last two decades to develop a circular economy based on the exploitation of resources recovered by wastes, this research is key evidence to influence both industry and government on the financial and economic value of materials recovery of WEEE."

A significant amount of the world's e-waste is generated in workplaces, which underlines the importance of implementing strong recycling programmes in offices and on other business premises.

However, evidence shows that many UK organisations have a long way to go in this regard. According to a study carried out by the Green Alliance last year, the failure to recycle effectively costs British businesses an estimated £1.7 billion per annum. Just two per cent of materials from workplace WEEEs are currently recycled, despite 23 per cent being considered suitable for recovery and reuse.

Is your business doing its bit to recycle WEEEs and other forms of office waste?

 

Posted by William Rodriquez

Image courtesy of ThinkStock