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Global E-waste management: Can WEEE make a difference? A review of e-waste trends, legislation, contemporary issues and future challenges

Global E-waste management: Can WEEE make a difference? A review of e-waste trends, legislation, contemporary issues and future challenges
Global E-waste management: Can WEEE make a difference? A review of e-waste trends, legislation, contemporary issues and future challenges

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) comprises a globally important waste stream due to the scarcity and value of the materials that it contains; annual generation of WEEE is increasing by 3–5% per annum. The effective management of WEEE will contribute critically to progress towards (1) realisation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, (2) a circular economy, and (3) resource efficiency. This comprehensive review paper provides a critical and contemporary examination of the current global situation of WEEE management and discusses opportunities for enhancement. Trends in WEEE generation, WEEE-related policies and legislation are exemplified in detail. Four typical future WEEE management scenarios are identified, classified and outlined. The European Community is at the forefront of WEEE management, largely due to the WEEE Directive (Directive 2012/19/EU) which sets high collection and recycling targets for Member States. WEEE generation rates are increasing in Africa though collection and recycling rates are low. WEEE-related legislation coverage is increasing in Asia (notably China and India) and in Latin America. This review highlights emerging concerns, including: stockpiling of WEEE devices; reuse standards; device obsolescence; the Internet of Things, the potential for collecting space e-debris, and emerging trends in electrical and electronic consumer goods. Key areas of concern in regard to WEEE management are identified: the partial provision of formal systems for WEEE collection and treatment at global scale; further escalation of global WEEE generation (increased ownership, and acceleration of obsolescence and redundancy); and absence of regulation and its enforcement. Measures to improve WEEE management at global scale are recommended: incorporation of circular economy principles in EEE design and production, and WEEE management, including urban mining; extension of WEEE legislation and regulation, and improved enforcement thereof; harmonisation of key terms and definitions to permit consistency and meaning in WEEE management; and improvements to regulation and recognition of the informal WEEE management sector.

E-waste, Reuse, circular economy, Urban mining, Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)
0956-053X
549-563
Shittu, Olanrewaju S.
faaa3663-4cad-4f5a-877a-e935534050b1
Williams, Ian D.
c9d674ac-ee69-4937-ab43-17e716266e22
Shaw, Peter J.
935dfebf-9fb6-483c-86da-a21dba8c1989
Shittu, Olanrewaju S.
faaa3663-4cad-4f5a-877a-e935534050b1
Williams, Ian D.
c9d674ac-ee69-4937-ab43-17e716266e22
Shaw, Peter J.
935dfebf-9fb6-483c-86da-a21dba8c1989

Shittu, Olanrewaju S., Williams, Ian D. and Shaw, Peter J. (2021) Global E-waste management: Can WEEE make a difference? A review of e-waste trends, legislation, contemporary issues and future challenges. Waste Management, 120, 549-563. (doi:10.1016/j.wasman.2020.10.016).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) comprises a globally important waste stream due to the scarcity and value of the materials that it contains; annual generation of WEEE is increasing by 3–5% per annum. The effective management of WEEE will contribute critically to progress towards (1) realisation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, (2) a circular economy, and (3) resource efficiency. This comprehensive review paper provides a critical and contemporary examination of the current global situation of WEEE management and discusses opportunities for enhancement. Trends in WEEE generation, WEEE-related policies and legislation are exemplified in detail. Four typical future WEEE management scenarios are identified, classified and outlined. The European Community is at the forefront of WEEE management, largely due to the WEEE Directive (Directive 2012/19/EU) which sets high collection and recycling targets for Member States. WEEE generation rates are increasing in Africa though collection and recycling rates are low. WEEE-related legislation coverage is increasing in Asia (notably China and India) and in Latin America. This review highlights emerging concerns, including: stockpiling of WEEE devices; reuse standards; device obsolescence; the Internet of Things, the potential for collecting space e-debris, and emerging trends in electrical and electronic consumer goods. Key areas of concern in regard to WEEE management are identified: the partial provision of formal systems for WEEE collection and treatment at global scale; further escalation of global WEEE generation (increased ownership, and acceleration of obsolescence and redundancy); and absence of regulation and its enforcement. Measures to improve WEEE management at global scale are recommended: incorporation of circular economy principles in EEE design and production, and WEEE management, including urban mining; extension of WEEE legislation and regulation, and improved enforcement thereof; harmonisation of key terms and definitions to permit consistency and meaning in WEEE management; and improvements to regulation and recognition of the informal WEEE management sector.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 11 October 2020
e-pub ahead of print date: 9 December 2020
Published date: 1 February 2021
Keywords: E-waste, Reuse, circular economy, Urban mining, Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 449199
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/449199
ISSN: 0956-053X
PURE UUID: 09e134a4-3f17-4a34-9e82-45e2b25c036c
ORCID for Olanrewaju S. Shittu: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-7494-4229
ORCID for Ian D. Williams: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-0121-1219
ORCID for Peter J. Shaw: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-0925-5010

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 19 May 2021 18:17
Last modified: 26 Nov 2021 03:10

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Contributors

Author: Olanrewaju S. Shittu ORCID iD
Author: Ian D. Williams ORCID iD
Author: Peter J. Shaw ORCID iD

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