Recycling waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) more effectively could potentially be worth £2.7bn to the European market by the end of the decade, research has found.
WEEE has an estimated growth rate of 3-5% a year and is considered to be one of the fastest growing waste sources.
The volume of WEEE globally each year is 30-50 million tonnes. It has been valued at £1.57bn in 2014, rising to £2.7bn by 2020, according to research institutions including the University of Sheffield.
Its potential revenue is estimated from current and future predicted disposal trends in Europe of valuable materials such as gold and platinum in 14 categories including smartphones, hard drives and tablets.
Professor Lenny Koh, director of the Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre at the University of Sheffield, said the research paper, Recycling of WEEE: an economic assessment of present and future e-waste streams, addressed the need to reduce reliance on unused non-renewable materials, especially precious, critical and rare earths, in manufacturing.
Koh said: “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 during the past 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 governments on the financial and economic value of materials recovery of WEEE.”
The research paper by Koh and colleagues from University of L’Aquila and Politecnico di Milano has been awarded the Atlas Award by publisher Elsevier.