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Tech Giants Accused of Dodging E-waste Responsibility

David Paul

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e-waste

MPs have said that the firms are ‘not playing their part’ in tackling the huge amounts of dumped electronic waste.

MPs have accused large tech firms of not taking enough responsibility for e-waste created by their products.

It has been suggested that the companies should take part in the collection, recycling and repairing of their discarded products which currently contribute around 155,000 tonnes of tech waste in the UK.

According to an inquiry by the Environment Audit Committee (EAC), the UK government should be holding these firms accountable for the waste that they create.

“For too long companies like Amazon and Apple have been dodging their environmental responsibilities for the products they sell,” said EAC chair Philip Dunne.

“Too many devices have a limited, and sometimes decreasing, lifespan and end up in bins, eventually going to landfill or incineration.

“There is no chance of precious metals being retrieved, which could quickly become a huge problem as the rare and disappearing materials are crucial for renewable energy such as wind turbines, solar panels and electric car batteries.”

In July, a published Global E-waste Monitor claimed that the UK generated the “second-highest amount of e-waste per person in the world,” lagging behind just one other country – Norway.

As well as this, a report by the consultancy firm Eunomia for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), highlights that the UK has “significantly lower collection and recycling rates for e-waste than other countries in the European region”.

Commenting on the disposal of tech waste, MPs in Westminster said: “A lot of it goes to landfill, incineration or is dumped overseas. Under current laws producers and retailers of electronics are responsible for this waste, yet they are clearly not fulfilling that responsibility.

“Given the astronomical growth in sales by online vendors, particularly this year during the coronavirus pandemic, the EAC calls for online marketplaces to collect products and pay for their recycling to create a level playing field with physical retailers and producers that are not selling on their platforms,” the MPs wrote.

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Both Amazon and Apple responded to the report, with Apple saying it was “surprised and disappointed” and that the data does not reflect the firm’s “efforts to conserve and recycle” resources.

“There are more options for customers to trade-in, recycle and get safe, quality repairs than ever before, and our latest Apple Watch, iPad, and iPhone line-up all use recycled material across key components,” a spokesperson for Apple commented.

According to the EAC report, only around 12% of created electronics products are re-used, and more than 55% of electronics put on the market are not being collected or recycled.

The report also states that if consumption of goods, including electronics, continue to grow at current trends, greenhouse gas emissions from resource extraction and processing will increase by 43% from 2015 to 2060.

A spokesperson for Amazon added: “Amazon is committed to minimising waste and helping our customers to reuse, repair, and recycle their products, and we provide a range of options that anyone can easily access through the Amazon Second Chance website.

“We have supported the recycling of more than 10,000 tonnes of electronic waste in the UK over the last decade.”

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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