UK generates more e-waste per head than any other country except Norway

The UK generates more e-waste per person than any country in the world with the exception of Norway, through products such as discarded smart phones, a report has claimed.

Mobile phones which need to be replaced every couple of years are a major contributing factor to e-waste.
Mobile phones which need to be replaced every couple of years are a major contributing factor to e-waste.

The study, from environmental charity Green Alliance, found that the average amount of e-waste generated by a person in the UK is 23.9kg a year, compared to just 7.3kg on average in the world. In Norway, the figure is 26kg per person per year.

However, the study also revealed that environmental measures such as labelling and the production of more energy efficient gadgets are preventing eight million metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) from being emitted in the UK a year.

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The study said that the process of producing an average smartphone emits 60kg of CO2 equivalent, which is over 300 times the weight of the phone itself.

However, while consumers surveyed in the study said they wanted phones which lasted around five years, the average device usually lasts just two to three years. Green Alliance said that one reason consumers are being exposed to appliances with a short shelf life is poor enforcement of product standards, with up to a quarter of those sold not meeting current standards for energy efficiency.

This means that the UK is missing out on 800,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent savings a year, and that businesses producing goods to high standards are being undercut by others that get away with selling poorer quality products. Two thirds of people questioned are often frustrated by products that do not last and three quarters say they want the government to do something about it.

The charity also pointed out discrepancies in what should be equivalent products. For A+ rated televisions, it found the running cost could vary between £3.88 and £39.52 a year.

Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy at Which?, said: "We believe more should be done to reduce the high levels of electronic waste and our research has shown that a growing number of consumers are really concerned about sustainability. Many want to do the right thing, but this is made difficult by a lack of clear information and options to help them choose sustainable products and services.

"Which? is committed to giving consumers who want to reduce their environmental impact greater confidence to make sustainable choices, and to working with manufacturers and policymakers to ensure a wide range of sustainable products are available to consumers. We strongly support the government's ambition to meet or exceed European standards on eco-design and energy labelling as part of the transition to net-zero."

Libby Peake, head of resource policy at Green Alliance, said: “Even before the pandemic, people were frustrated by products that didn’t last. At a time when many experiencing financial difficulties and are becoming more dependent on electronic devices to communicate with family and friends, this couldn’t be more urgent. The last thing we want to see this Christmas is consumers being ripped off with shoddy products because the government is not doing enough to ensure better design and protect people.”