Europe, 65% of WEEE – landfills, legal offenses and cannibalization

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Due to a study by Interpol, Onu and WEEE Forum, the recycling economy loses 1,7 billion euros every year because of mismanagement.

According to WEEE Countering Illegal Trade, a joint study by Interpol, WEEE Forum and United Nations, only a third of Europe’s electronic waste is recycled properly, with a large number of smart phones, computers and TVs that end up in illegal traffic or in landfills.

Only Sweden and Norway have approached the European targets for the collection and recycling of 85% of waste electric and electronic devices (WEEE). Last in the list, Romania, Spain and Cyprus. They correctly deal with only 20% of WEEE. Italy ranks just a little above them.

All in all, in 2012 only 35% of WEEE was treated in an appropriate way, finishing in the official collection and recycling centres. The remaining 65% was exported, irregularly recycled in Europe or buried in landfills.

The rules of the Old Continent point to reuse electronic waste, products which have a plug or a battery, in order to recuperate metals such as gold or silver and prevent the release of toxic agents, such as lead and mercury, in the environment.

The report goes against the common belief that most of the waste is illegally sent to African countries such as Nigeria and Ghana, to be repaired and resold. “The real illegal traffic of e-waste takes place next to us, not in Africa – says Dr. Huisman, scientific coordinator of the study – Mismanagement happens everywhere. In Europe there are many thefts, cannibalization, and a significant amount ends up in the garbage bin.”

For example, a broken fridge is a waste with value because of the copper in its compressor, which is often stolen while the rest ends up in landfills. Every year, European recycling structures lose up to 1.7 billion euros through thefts of components with value.

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