by Nick Purser

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UNU claims actions to ensure the global recycling and reuse of WEEE stream remain insufficient

The “Global E-Waste Monitor 2014” by the United Nations University “Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability” reveals the many problems that still persist at a global level with regard to the stream of Waste Electric and Electronic Devices (WEEE) and its collection, recycling and re-use.

The report indicates that 41.9 million tonnes of WEEE were discarded in 2014 without any form of environmentally sound reuse or collection. One of the most puzzling elements in all of this is that this waste steam is estimated to be worth ca. €49 billion. In fact, the report indicates that the European WEEE stream includes 300 tonnes of gold, 201,000 tonnes of silver and 16 million tonnes of steel, as well as a vast valuable volume of other metals. Then, of course, there also is an extremely large volume of other toxic metals and elements.

“We are facing the onset of an unprecedented tsunami of electronic waste rolling out over the world,” admonishes Achim Steiner, UN Deputy Secretary General and UN Environment Programme Director. In fact, the report indicates that the WEEE that is not disposed of in a legal and environmentally sound manner is set to increase to 50 million tonnes by 2017.

The UNU Report indicates that out of 41.9 million tonnes of WEEE, only 6.5 million are accounted for through legal WEEE collection and recycling schemes. Clearly, a lot remains to be done.

In Europe, these issues are compounded by the lack of WEEE collection and recycling measures, notwithstanding the new EU directive on WEEE, also known as the WEEE Recast, which was originally scheduled to come into effect EU-wide on February 14, 2014. To date, many member states are still struggling to transpose the directive into national legislation and the EU Commission has referred a number of member states to the EU Court of Justice for their lack of timely action.

For further information:

Global E-Waste Monitor 2014
Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability
ERP: WEEE Transposition Update