Report Finds Great Potential to Improve Recycling of Europe's e-waste

Only about 25 percent of Europe's medium sized household appliances and 40 percent of larger appliances are collected for salvage and recycling, leaving "substantial room for improvement," according to a study for the European Commission by a United Nations University-led (UNU) consortium.

According to the findings, released on Nov. 15, small appliances, with a few exceptions, are close to zero percent collection.

"The study suggests possible long-term collection rate targets of around 60 percent for small appliances like MP3 players and hairdryers, as well as for medium sized audio equipment, microwaves and TVs and 75 percent for large appliances like refrigerators and washing machines. If implemented, these targets would lead to a reported European harvest of roughly 5.3 million tonnes of e-waste by 2011, up from 2.2 million tonnes today," said study manager Ruediger Kuehr of UNU's office in Bonn, Germany.

The study predicts that across the member states of the European Union (EU), e-waste will rise 2.5 percent to 2.7 percent per year -- from 10.3 million tonnes generated in 2005 (about one-quarter of the world's total) to roughly 12.3 million tonnes per year by 2020.

The EU Directive on WEEE (waste electric and electronic equipment) prescribes a collection rate of 4 kg per capita. However, the study points up large differences in collection rates between EU member states.

For more information, contact UNU at

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