International E-Waste Day
International E-Waste Day (IEWD) is a theme day initiated by WEEE Forum – an international association for European PRO:s (such as El-Kretsen). IEWD falls on October 14 every year, with the aim of drawing attention to the growing issue of electronic waste. Each year they highlight a topical subject area or challenge in the world of electronic waste, and this year the theme is “invisible electronics”. In order to meet the global sustainability goals and contribute to a green transition, we all need to get better at learning what electronics are; what they contain; how the material is produced; and how it should be recycled or reused. In preparation för IEWD, WEEE Forum and PRO:s produce information material that companies and private individuals can use freely in their own channels. Join in and spread the word to raise awareness about electrical waste recycling!
What is electronics and what is defined as electrical equipment?
Electronics is a branch of electrical engineering that is based on the movement of electrons in vacuum, gas or solid materials (including semiconductors). Nowadays, the term is also used to describe electronic components, in, for example, radio, television, computer technology, communication and measurement technology. Source: NE Nationalencyklopedin
Electrical equipment refers to devices, products, components, machines, tools, instruments and other equipment that generate, transmit or measure electric current or electromagnetic fields, or that depend on electric current or electromagnetic fields to function properly. Source: Sveriges riksdag
“Invisible electronics” are electrical products that, at first glance, may not be perceived as containing electronics, and which therefore can end up in the wrong recycling bin (or in the worst case: in the regular garbage bag). It can be, for example, dollhouses with built-in lighting; charge cards; dancing/singing toys; blinking shoes; singing greeting cards; crank radios, etc.
While it’s difficult to give exact figures, it is estimated that “invisible electrical waste” constitutes as much as 9 million tons of non-recycled material per year in the world, of which approx. 23 million kilos is produced in Sweden.Source: UNITAR
To test the general public’s knowledge of the possible electronic content in common (and not-so-common) products, we put together the quiz “Electronics or not?”.
We then went out into the city of Stockholm with the film camera and our questions. Want to see how people answered the quiz? Check it out here.
Other PRO:s also interviewed and filmed in their respective countries. Click here to see the compilation video.
Many believe that a toy is not electronic because it may contain mostly plastic; or that a battery-powered toy is not electronic when the battery is no longer inside it. A good rule of thumb to remember is: Toys that light up, sound or move, and are powered by a battery (even if the battery is no longer in) or have sockets for charging cords, are all counted as electronics – and thus need to be left in the electronics recycling when they become waste.
Smart electronics = smart recycling?
Our new, smart devices can measure our heart rate; turn on our coffee machine: talk to us; independently start vacuuming our home; raising and lowering our room temperature, and much more. Many of these gadgets have advanced built-in electronics, and often contain valuable, environmentally hazardous and/or conflict-prone metals (such as cobalt, tin, gold, tungsten, and tantalum). This makes it even more important to recycle the devices, to be able to use the metals again (and again and again) and thus reduce the dependence on new mining. In addition, if electrical waste is left in the regular garbage, it is handled in the wrong process that is not customised for the material. Then, the hazardous waste can end up in nature and leak out substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and flame retardants – something that is not only bad for our ecosystem, but also very dangerous for people.
What can I do?
Start with yourself: Have you accumulated a lot of electronics that you don’t use? If the device works: Recycle it. If it doesn’t work: Leave it for recycling at the recycling centre. Your discarded old headphones or mobile phones can make a difference!
According to the UN:s forecast, each person in the world will generally have amassed 8 kilos of “invisible electrical waste” before the end of 2023. E-waste that ends up in the wrong place and whose resources cannot be used. Pascal Leroy, Director General of the WEEE Forum, said of this year’s IEWD: ” Invisible e-waste is a silent emergency that demands our attention. We must all recognize the role we play in this issue and work together to address it.
We at El-Kretsen believe that if more of us become aware of our own potential and power to influence responsible electronics recycling, and encourage and spread information within our networks, then we have come a long way. Increased awareness of how much electronics actually circulates in the world and is contained in our products, can also reduce “unnecessary” electronics consumption.
So get started right away, become a more active part of the change and spread the word about International E-Waste Day #ewasteday.