Action needed to help businesses manage ewaste

  • News
  • 29 / 07 / 22
  • By N2S

Large quantities of business electrical waste (or e-waste) are being thrown out annually in the UK.

According to the Material Focus report Business Electrical Waste – Challenges And Opportunities (July 2022) it is estimated that 200k tonnes of e-waste – the equivalent weight of 16,666 double decker buses – is being discarded incorrectly by UK businesses each year.  This figure relates to electricals ending up in organisations’ general waste. It would generally be considered to be smaller electricals, less so things like fridges.

The report shows the shocking levels of e-waste being discarded;

  • Up to 200,000 tonnes of business electricals are being thrown away with general waste.
  • Up to 109,000 tonnes of business electricals are being recycled with light iron at scrap metal processors, instead of going through AATFs, which often means that some valuable materials don’t get recycled;.
  • Up to 29,000 tonnes of business electricals are being illegally exported.
  • Up to 5000 tonnes of business electricals are being fly tipped, with clean-up costs often being paid by local authorities.

Mimi Moll, IT & Telecoms Sustainability Lead at n2s – which specialises in Sustainable Technology Lifecycle Management and processes more than 250,000 items of business e-waste annually, said:

“Even though we are heavily involved in this industry we are alarmed by the findings within the report. Clearly, there is an urgent need to help make managing unwanted tech easier and simpler for businesses.

“In this report businesses highlight that the metrics set around WEEE are focused too much on recording end-of-life technology rather than items that are reused. And this is exactly what we at n2s believe needs to be championed – extending the life of tech.

“Hoarding is emerging as another issue for businesses. The lack of clarity means it may feel easier to store away unwanted tech. Preventing benefits such as residual value through reselling devices safely and securely when they are no longer needed.  From an environmental perspective all of the materials such as plastics and precious metals are left sitting dormant whilst the earth is being mined for more and more resources.”

The Global E-waste Monitor 2020 identifies that the UK is the second-largest producer of commercial and domestic e-waste per capita, generating up to 23.9kg of e-waste per head annually.

“There is a solution to this growing problem. And that is to create an ‘Infinite Economy’ for technology. This would significantly reduce the environmental impact and maximise residual value from the resale and refurbishment of IT & Telco devices, through to innovative ‘urban mining’ solutions to mine metals from e-waste.This has been a key focus of investment for our research and development team.”

Defra have identified that the current B2B obligations system is difficult for producers and waste operators to administer, leading to losses from the formal system as well as various reporting and evidence gaps.

“We are proud to be working with Defra as a strategic sponsor of Defra’s e-Sustainability Alliance (DeSA) which is also looking at how we can better measure and reduce the environmental impact of technology.

“Now more than ever, we need a nationwide collaborative approach. This report is crucial and a catalyst to transform how electrical waste in business is tackled.

“We invite organisations, partners, businesses from the private and public sector to get in touch with us so we can share and extend our knowledge and support in Sustainable Technology Lifecycle Management.”

n2s can be contacted directly at hello@n2s.co.uk

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