Researchers from the University of Sheffield found that recycling electronic waste was already worth €2.15bn in 2014 and could rise to €3.67bn by 2020.

On top of the significant revenue gain, more effective recovery of materials could be environmentally beneficial by reducing manufacturers’ reliance on natural resources.

The paper, entitled ‘Recycling of WEEEs: an economic assessment of present and future e-waste streams’ was published by Professor Lenny Koh from the University of Sheffield.

Koh said: “This research has strong relevance to addressing global issues of materials availability and security, reducing reliance on unused non-renewable materials, especially precious, critical and rare earth materials in manufacturing for sustainability and for consideration for substitution.”

Pressing issue

WEEE is currently considered to be one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world. With the development of new electronic items and subsequent waste set to increase by 3-5% each year, the need for manufacturers and recycling centres to work more closely together in order to recover more material from disposed equipment is a pressing issue.

The paper recommends the development of more flexible recycling plants able to intercept different types of end of life products.

Professor Koh added: “The recycling of e-waste could allow the diminishing use of virgin resources in manufacturing and, consequently, it could contribute in reducing environmental pollution.

“Given that the EU has tried over the last two decades to develop a circular economy based on the exploitation of resources recovered by wastes, this research is key evidence to influence both industry and government on the financial and economic value of materials recovery of WEEE.”

For further reading on this subject, check out edie’s top-10 facts about e-waste.

Matt Mace

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