A surge in lockdown spring cleaning saw 6,036 tonnes of electrical waste collected in Cork by the country’s largest recycling scheme in 2020, despite Covid and travel restrictions.
11kg of e-waste was recycled per person in the county last year – exceeding both the 2019 collection rate of 10.2kg and the 2020 national average of 10.9kg per person.
However, WEEE Ireland has warned that the rise in reusing and repairing of electrical goods must be counted towards Ireland’s recycling targets if we are serious about developing a circular economy.
WEEE Ireland was one of the best performing recycling schemes in Europe in 2020, with 38,724 tonnes of waste electrical items collected in total – including 120,000 fridges and 200,000 TVs and monitors recovered.
The equivalent of over 46 million used AA portable batteries were also prevented from ending up in landfill, its annual report revealed.
The scheme achieved the biggest monthly takeback volume in its 16-year history in July when the first lockdown was lifted, with a record 3,763 tonnes of electrical waste collected for recycling countrywide.
However, with electrical consumption rising on a yearly basis, its CEO has called on legislators to recognise the role that unreported activities such as repair are increasingly playing alongside recycling in the circular economy.
“In Cork, and across Ireland, we are consuming more electrical goods than ever – with the annual tonnage on the market rising from 15kg a head in 2016 to 21kg a head last year,” said WEEE Ireland CEO Leo Donovan.
"This rise makes meeting the annual EU WEEE Directive target even harder, despite achieving record recycling levels, as it equates to the percentage of goods sold.
“WEEE Ireland has been a huge educator in the areas of reuse and repair, alongside the electrical producers, partnering with new initiatives like Repair My Stuff.ie and My Waste.ie.
“It is time to realistically measure the amount of goods that are kept in circulation, rather than basing targets solely on end-of-life recycling, and also legislate for longer-life technologies such as photovoltaic panels and EV batteries.
“We have to recognise that significant volumes of WEEE are not being handed over to the schemes but going to export, metal scrap and other flows.”
Almost 19 million pieces of e-waste were recovered in 2020.