London: Mismanagement of discarded electronics within Europe involves a volume 10 times that of e-waste shipped to foreign shores in undocumented exports, according to an investigation into the functioning of the used and waste electronics market.
The European Union-funded investigation into waste electrical and electronic equipment illegal trade was undertaken by Interpol, United Nations University (UNU) and United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute.
The project found that in Europe just 35 percent — 3.3 million tonnes of 9.5 million tonnes — of used and waste electronics and electrical equipment discarded by companies and consumers in 2012 wound up in official collection and recycling systems.
The other discarded electronics — 6.2 million tonnes — was either exported, recycled under non-compliant conditions or simply thrown in waste bins.
The study estimates 1.3 million tonnes of discarded electronics departed in undocumented mixed exports, of which an estimated 30 percent (about 400,000 tonnes) was electronic waste, and 70 percent functioning equipment.
More than 10 times the 400,000 tonnes of e-waste exported — some 4.7 million tonnes — was mismanaged or illegally traded within Europe itself.
The widespread theft of valuable components such as circuit boards and precious metals from waste electronics results in a serious loss of materials and resources for compliant waste processors in Europe.
This annual estimated loss is valued at between $877 million to $1.86 billion.