- The WEEE Forum, an international electronic scrap association, is holding its inaugural International E-Waste Day on October 13. The goal is to raise public awareness of e-scrap and encourage people to properly recycle and reuse their electric and electronic items, thus promoting a circular economy.
- Official events are taking place in partnership with 27 non-profit e-waste recyclers across 21 different countries — including mobile phone collections, school educational programs, mobile app launches and newsletters. Unofficial activities are also taking place in other countries, led by organizations such as the United Nations and World Economic Forum.
- U.S. recycling and awareness events will be hosted this weekend, and throughout the month, by California Electronics Recycler, Impact Recyclers and Teton Valley Community Recycling.
Electronic scrap is a rapidly growing waste stream, especially as more and more personal electronic devices are put into use and planned obsolescence cycles shorten. WEEE estimates 50 million metric tons of e-scrap will be generated this year, and about half of that comes from personal devices such as computers, smart phones and TVs.
The organization notes only about 20% of the world's e-scrap gets recycled each year, equating to an estimated 40 million metric tons being put into landfills, burned or disposed of illegally. Improperly disposing of electronics "results in the huge loss of valuable and critical raw materials from the supply chain," according to WEEE. This happens despite about two-thirds of the world's population being covered by e-scrap legislation for responsible end-of-life device handling.
European countries frequently are cited as being leaders in the e-scrap space, in part because of their integration of extended producer responsibility (EPR) principles. But the United States also is making strides in e-scrap recycling and refurbishing. Especially as devices become smaller and more complex, electronics recyclers continue pushing states to pass right-to-repair legislation, encouraging reuse instead of discarding devices. This year, California also released recommendations for reworking its Electronic Waste Recycling Act, including boosting EPR and changing the fee structure.
Attention to e-scrap reuse and recycling is also taking on new importance following China's import restrictions as other countries weigh measures to curb the increase in e-scrap coming over their borders. Thailand, for example, announced a ban on more than 400 different types of e-scrap imports over the summer.
The health and environmental concerns that accompany an influx of electronic items are also a growing concern. Some processors rely on illegal and unsafe material recovery methods that can pose harm to themselves and the environment; for example by exposing the cadmium, mercury and lead present in many electronics. International E-Waste Day has the potential to raise awareness about safe device handling practices as well as new market development, in addition to the main goal of promoting reuse and recycling.