Report Reveals E-Waste Flow and Market Structure in Belgium

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  • 2013•09•19     Bonn

    In response to a European Union Directive aiming to significantly recover waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in each EU member state by 2019, the United Nations University Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP) and FFact Management Consultants have produced the 45-page report “(W)EEE Mass Balance and Market Structure in Belgium”.

    The report addresses a major challenge of fulfilling the EU’s Directive: There is no established method for calculating the amount of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) put on the market or the amount of WEEE generated and the flows of e-waste that result.

    The report is based on a decade’s-worth of information gathered by Recupel (a Belgian WEEE take-back and recycling organization) to explore how much of EEE exists in Belgium, where it comes from and where it goes.

    The report utilizes a UNU statistical model to calculate the amounts of existing EEE put on the market, as well as the location and amount of WEEE generated in the country. Among the insights into the existence and movement of this material in Belgium provided by the report:

    • Using an innovative approach and the most recent available data, the UNU model delivers a robust calculation of the amount of EEE put on the market in Belgium, which it calculates at 26.2 kg per inhabitant in 2011.
    • Belgian homes and companies currently hold approximately 750 million electrical and electronic devices, which amounts to 276 kg per inhabitant.
    • From this, UNU estimates the amount of WEEE generated in 2011 at roughly 22.4 kg per inhabitant
    • Although new technology has lengthened the lifespan of some EEE, such as energy-saving lamps, it has dramatically shortened that of most others, such as cell phones, TVs and monitors.
    • Though the amount of WEEE has been on the rise due to the proliferation of devices and their shorter lifespans, the average weight per device has declined since 2003.

    While this calculation is based on more complete data (70 percent of WEEE accounted for) than the previous data collected by Recupel and Individual Plans (47 percent of WEEE accounted for), 30 percent of WEEE generated still remains unaccounted for.

    The report acknowledges that further accounting of the remaining WEEE generated would improve the identification of WEEE flows in Belgium. The report goes on to make suggestions about how EU member states can collect more and better data about quantities and flows of WEEE and EEE inside and outside their borders.

    The worldwide increase of WEEE poses real resource and environmental concerns. This report seeks to provide the necessary data for fact-based discussions between governments, market parties and other stakeholders involved in WEEE collection and recycling as they work towards addressing the challenges posed by WEEE and achieving the EU’s new collection targets.