EPA waste data release 7 July 2021. Latest reference year 2019 (Data subject to Eurostat validation)
Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is one of the fastest growing waste streams worldwide, and one of the most hazardous if not managed properly. It includes everything from discarded household appliances (such as fridges) to electronic devices (such as computers and mobile phones). The WEEE Directive (2012/19/EC) aims to ensure that WEEE is collected and managed in an environmentally friendly way. In 2019, Ireland surpassed all EU targets for recycling and recovery of WEEE.
Figure 1 shows the trends in WEEE collected and recovered in Ireland over time. It is evident that the economic recession that occurred between 2008 and 2011 led to a decrease in the quantity of WEEE collected, as householders and business did not replace electrical and electronic equipment as frequently as before. The recovering economy since 2012 coincided with a large rise in WEEE collected, underscoring the link between economic wealth and consumption of electronic goods.
Recycling discarded electrical items is not only good for the environment and human health, it also makes sense. Many of these devices contain precious metals and valuable components such as glass that can be reused and recycled into new products if the waste is effectively managed. Improving the collection, treatment and recycling of WEEE can increase resource efficiency and contribute to the circular economy.
The EPA’s most recent waste characterisation study carried out in 2017-2018 found that substantial amounts of WEEE were still present in the household bins, accounting for 0.9% of waste in the residual bin and 0.7% of waste in the recycling bin. These results indicate that there is further room for improvement in terms of ensuring this material is separately collected through the available channels, to allow the maximum value to be extracted from these valuable materials.
Table 1: Ireland’s WEEE recycling and recovery rates in 2019, compared with EU targets.
|Categories||EU recovery target||
Ireland’s recovery percentage
EU preparation for reuse and recycling target
Ireland’s preparation for reuse and recycling percentage
|1||Temperature exchange equipment||85%||97%||80%||86%|
|2||Screens, monitors, and equipment containing screens having a surface greater than 100 cm2||80%||94%||70%||84%|
|4||Large equipment (*) (any external dimension more than 50 cm)||85%||
|5||Small equipment (no external dimension more than 50 cm)||75%||84%||55%||74%|
|6||Small IT and telecommunications equipment (no external dimension more than 50 cm)||75%||88%||55%||81%|
Open in Excel: Table 1 WEEE recovery rates 2018-2019
As part of annual reporting under the WEEE Directive, the EPA submits WEEE waste statistics for Ireland to the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications for transmission to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. The data are required to be submitted by 30th June of the reference year +2 (i.e. 2019 data were collected and processed in 2020 and submitted to Eurostat by 30th June 2021). Following validation by Eurostat, official statistics for Ireland and all Member States are published on the Eurostat website as part of the following dataset: