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Upsurge in home clearouts during lockdown could 'derail' recycling targets

The head of recycling scheme WEEE Ireland said it’s vital electrical items cleared out of homes do not end up in landfill.

Image: PA Images

AN UPSURGE IN household clearouts during lockdown could risk Ireland’s compliance with EU recycling targets, an industry figure has claimed.

Difficulties in recycling electrical waste present the most pressing challenge, the head of recycling scheme WEEE Ireland said.

WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Ireland is involved in the recycling of e-waste left at designated collection centres across the country.

According to its annual report, 38,594 tonnes of waste electrical items and the equivalent of more than 44 million used AA portable batteries were collected in the country in 2019.

That represented a new national record of 10.89kg of e-waste recycled per head of population last year – a rise of 6.2% on 2018, according to WEEE Ireland.

WEEE Ireland CEO Leo Donovan said the total saw Ireland emerge as one of the best performing countries in Europe, meeting an EU target to recover the equivalent of 65% of the average weight of all new electrical equipment placed on the market over the three preceding years.

However, Donovan warned that Ireland could struggle to meet the 65% benchmark figure this year if an expected glut of waste electrical items is not diverted from landfill.

“Households throughout the country have used the lockdown to carry out extended spring cleaning, and it is vital that these end of life electrical items do not end up in landfill, or worse illegally dumped, destroying the progress that we have made as a nation,” he said.

“Now that people are free to travel within their counties, we are urging consumers to avoid an e-waste crisis by recycling for free at their local authority recycling centres and participating retailers which have now reopened.

“2019 was a major target year when we successfully demonstrated that a structure was in place to effectively manage e-waste from households. However, 2020 brings a different challenge.

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“We are facing a battle to stay on target against an increase in electrical and electronic products sold over the past three years and the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on recycling.”

He said the equivalent of 227,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions were avoided by diverting e-waste from landfill through the scheme last year – the equivalent of the annual carbon consumption of 4,543 hectares of trees.

Of the 19 million pieces of e-waste recovered in 2019, there were 3.2 million lamps and lightbulbs, 334,000 large household appliances, 194,000 TVs and monitors and 122,000 fridges.

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