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A survey by Ecodom-Ipsos measures how much exactly electronics companies know about the world of recycling.
A comparison between production and recycling to really achieve the circular economy. There’s still a long way to go, since one manufacturer out of four declares to be little informed about the management of waste resulting from their products. This, in a nutshell, is the survey conducted by the Ipsos Research Institute and commissioned by Ecodom, a leader in the management of waste from domestic appliances.
The research started in September 2015 and was carried out in two stages: the first stage, a qualitative one, was aimed at identifying the most important research topics, through in-depth discussions with the producers belonging to major Italian Collective Systems. The second phase, a quantitative one, involved 600 companies producing electrical and electronic equipment, accounting for 16% of the companies registered in the Electric and Electronic Equipment Registrar: a particularly broad and representative sample, which made it possible to outline a clear picture of the opinions and perceptions of the manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment concerning the WEEE system in Italy.
The first data emerged from the Ecodom-Ipsos survey is that in 87% of the companies interviewed there is at least one figure or office responsible for managing the WEEE: in most cases this role comes from a specific request of the company (82% of cases) and mainly falls in the administrative/commercial domain (42%) or concerns the company board (21%), while the figure of the Environmental Manager still seems not very widespread (3% of cases). Each producer’s Collective System is also recognized as the main reference point for the training of these professionals (51% of positive answers).
Nonetheless, the data shows that approximately 1 out of 4 interviewees declared to be uninformed about the WEEE system in Italy (28% of the interview sample). Regardless of the level of information expressed, there is however a substantial optimism among manufacturers concerning the changes that took place in the last 5 years in in the field of household WEEE: 64% of interviewees think that way, against 23% expressing a negative judgement (adding those who declare themselves to be poorly informed, this percentage rises to 30%).
According to the opinion of those who give a positive evaluation of the evolution of the WEEE system in Italy, the factors that led to this change are the following: greater environmental sensitivity of the producers about the proper management of WEEE (32% of the sample); a clearer definition of the activities and obligations of each actor within the supply chain (28%); a higher awareness of the importance of the environment for society in general, from producers to end users (28%); a stronger solicitation from the European Commission to consider environmental issues as a priority (7%). Finally, there is a small but significant share of interviewees who see a “paradigm shift” in the consideration of WEEE: from simple waste to a potential resource (4%).
Most problems encountered by the detractors of the WEEE system seem to depend on the “complexity” of the system, with two main nodes: the lack of awareness by consumers of the fact that they pay a contribution for the environment when buying a new appliance to support the WEEE management; and the insufficient guarantees of environmental quality by some operators that deal with the treatment of WEEE.
Overall, for producers of electric and electronic equipment, evaluation of the domestic WEEE management system in Italy remains sufficient: 6.1 is the average rating given by the interviewees. However, in comparison with other EU countries, Italy is “late” for almost half of the interviewees (42%); for 24% of the sample it is at the same level as the other countries and only according to 4% it is ahead (while the remaining 30% does not have a precise opinion about it).
The Ecodom-Ipsos survey also tried to investigate the so-called “dispersed” material, i.e., the flow of WEEE that is not intercepted by collective systems established by EEE producers: there is no certainty that this material undergoes an environmentally correct treatment. The average rating of the interviewees is that the weight of dispersed material is equal to 44% of all WEEE collected in Italy. Unfortunately, this perception is far from reality: according to the CWIT research, recently presented at the WEEE Forum, “dispersed” WEEE flows account for more than 70% of the total. The presence of this “parallel channel” implies, according to 84% of the sample, a huge environmental damage; 16% consider it mainly as an economic loss for the community.