E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the European Union and less than 40% is recycled. The best recycler is Croatia with 81.3% and the worst is Malta with 20.8%. The other four countries in the top 5 are Estonia 69.8%, Bulgaria 68.8%, Hungary 51.1% and Austria with 50.1% of the e-waste recycled, a summary from the European Parliament shows.
“Electronic devices and electrical equipment define modern life. From washing machines and vacuum cleaners to smartphones and computers, it is hard to imagine life without them. But the waste they generate has become an obstacle to EU efforts to reduce its ecological footprint”, the summary says.
Large household appliances, such as washing machines and electric stoves, are the most collected, making up more than half, or 53.7%, of all collected e-waste.
This is followed by IT and telecommunications equipment (laptops, printers), consumer equipment and photovoltaic panels (video cameras, fluorescent lamps) and small household appliances (vacuum cleaners, toasters).
All other categories, such as electrical tools and medical devices, together make up just 7.2% of the collected e-waste..
In 2020, 10.3 kilos of electrical and electronic equipment waste were collected per inhabitant in the EU.
“Discarded electronic and electrical equipment contains potentially harmful materials that pollute the environment and increase the risks for people involved in recycling e-waste. To counter this problem, the EU has passed legislation to prevent the use of certain chemicals, like lead.”
The European Commission recently published a new circular economy action plan that has as one of its priorities the reduction of electronic and electrical waste. The proposal specifically outlined immediate goals like creating the right to repair and improving reusability in general, the introduction of a common charger and a rewards system to encourage recycling electronics.
USB Type-C will become the common charger for most electronic devices in the EU by the end of 2024. Laptops will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C port by 28 April 2026.
From 2005 to 2018 the average amount of municipal waste as measured per capita declined in the EU. However, trends can vary by country. For example, while municipal waste per capita increased in Denmark, Germany, Greece, Malta and the Czech Republic, it decreased in Bulgaria, Spain, Hungary, Romania and the Netherlands, the Parliament summary shows.
In absolute terms municipal waste per person was the highest in Denmark, Malta, Cyprus and Germany, while it was the lowest in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania.
“Wealthier states tend to produce more waste capita. Tourism also contributed to the higher rates in Cyprus and Malta.”
EU’s target for 2025 is that 55% of household waste should be reused and recycled.