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Facing e-waste

More than five billion of the estimated 16 billion mobile phones possessed worldwide are expected to be discarded or stashed away in 2022, the WEEE Forum has found, sparking calls for more recycling of the often hazardous materials they contain.

Despite containing valuable gold, copper, silver, palladium and other recyclable components, almost all these unwanted devices will be hoarded, dumped or incinerated, causing significant health and environmental harm.

Defunct cell phones are just the tip of the 44.48-million-ton iceberg of global electronic waste generated annually that isn’t recycled, according to the 2020 global e-waste monitor. Many of the 5 billion phones withdrawn from circulation will be hoarded rather than dumped in the trash, according to a survey in six European countries from June to September 2022.

Up to five kilos of e-devices are currently hoarded in the average European family, the report found. 46 percent of the 8,775 households surveyed considered potential future use as the main reason for hoarding small electrical and electronic equipment while another 15 percent stockpile their gadgets with the intention to sell them or give them away, and 13 percent keep them due to sentimental value.

People fail to realize the cost of hoarding e-waste, which when put together at a global level, represents massive volumes and values, especially if it is recycled.

Legislation in Europe has resulted in higher e-waste collection rates, where 50-55 percent is collected or recycled. In comparison, the rate for low income countries plunge to under 5 percent. The EU parliament has also passed a new law requiring USB-C to be the single charger standard for all new smartphones, tablets and cameras from late 2024. This move is expected to cut more than a thousand tons of e-waste every year.

With so many electronic devices currently in use and being hoarded, Filipinos and their government have a lot of catching up to do as far as setting up a system for proper disposal and recycling is concerned.*

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December 2022
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