Millions of tonnes of hidden electronic waste are being sent to landfill, incineration, being traded illegally, or gathering dust in households. On this year's 'E-Waste Day' IEMA's Digital Journalist Tom Pashby reports.

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) contains precious, rare and often expensive minerals and metals, and recovery of these materials is essential in the move towards circular economics.

Every year the WEEE Forum hosts International E-Waste Day on 14 October and this year the focus is on hidden waste which makes up the largest proportion of all e-waste.

Peter Bragg, sustainability and government affairs director at Canon EMEA, an IEMA corporate partner, said: “As a manufacturer of electronic equipment, we are aware of our responsibility to tackle e-waste; this is our ambition as a circular business.

“Our zero-landfill policy means that products returned back are either resold into markets with demand, undergo refurbishment or go through our remanufacturing processes, where raw materials are recovered for the remanufacturing of new products.

“In 1990, we introduced our Canon Toner Cartridge Recycling Programme in the US, Japan, and Germany, and in 1996 we introduced a recycling programme for inkjet cartridges too – these programmes were among the first of its kind.

“Since then, we have expanded our recycling programmes globally, and between 2008 and 2021 we took 42,413 tons of plastic from used products for recycling as raw materials, and another 33,619 tons of products and parts were reused directly.”

There has been an industry-wide shift towards refurbishment and remanufacturing of electrical goods over recent years, and Canon is no different.

Bragg said: “An example of our circular work is our remanufactured devices under the imageRUNNER ADVANCE ES range, sold across Europe.

“In 2022, we launched the imageRUNNER ADVANCE C3530FRG, a special environmentally-friendly model with increased reused-parts ratio –over 90 per cent of reused parts has been achieved.”

According to the UN, 8 kg of e-waste per person will be produced worldwide in 2023. This means 61.3 million tonnes of electronic waste is discarded within a year.

Only 17.4 per cent of this waste, containing a mixture of harmful substances and precious materials, will be recorded as being properly collected, treated and recycled globally. The remaining 50.6 million tonnes will end up in invisible waste streams or remain in households.

In 2022, IEMA was one of the first organisations to raise the alarm on the increased use and disposal of disposable vapes. The issue has since been picked up at the highest levels of government and proposals to ban the vapes have been made by the Prime Minister.


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