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E-waste: the beauty in the beast

Latest News 14 Oct 2022

Education on recycling is progressively taking hold across Europe, creating an important link in the chain of green responsibility and sustainable community development. While there is still a long way to go, what exactly happens to our old electric toothbrush, razor or hand mixer after collection? What value do they generate?

On International E-waste Day, an initiative of the WEEE Forum, APPLiA produced a series of explanatory videos taking consumers through the impact efficient handling of e-waste has on enhancing both society and the environment. Enjoy!

The amount of e-waste generated globally is the equivalent of 4,500 Eiffel Towers. More

Small appliances play a huge role in our daily lives. From brushing your teeth, preparing your coffee in the morning, and shaving, they are commonplace in millions of homes. Once discarded, they become e-waste. 

In the world, 50 million tonnes of e-waste are generated every year. This is the equivalent of throwing away 1000 laptops every second amounting to the weight of nearly 4,500 Eiffel Towers. Today, only about 20% of this waste is recycled with most of it being incinerated or placed in landfills, resulting in a substantial loss of precious raw materials. When e-waste is tossed into landfills, the chemicals in electronics leach into the soil, polluting the groundwater and the air, leaving detrimental consequences for the planet. Recycling is a simple choice we all adopt to prevent toxic hazards, and preserve the natural resources we have available. 

The beauty in the beast: the hidden value of e-waste. More

The total value of all raw materials present in e-waste was estimated at approximately €55 Billion, in 2016. More than the GDP of many countries around the world. 

Home appliances are made of components that contain valuable raw materials. Most of these are located in remote geographical areas and are often scarce in quantity. For this reason, securing access to metals and minerals, among others, that are strategic for the production of most electronics has become a global, cross-sectoral concern. If properly recycled, e-waste would help reintroduce precious raw materials contained in discarded goods back into the economy, helping to reduce the amount of mining, and greenhouse gas emissions, while conserving our planet's precious natural resources. When appliances like your food mixer, washing machine or dishwasher complete their lifecycle, they can be rejuvenated by being recycled to recover minerals and materials before being sent back to the manufacturers as secondary raw materials. This tremendously reduces the reliance on primary inputs and helps to stimulate a circular economy.

An old electric toothbrush can become a new electric toothbrush, a razor or a food container. More

After many years of loyal service, your toaster or electric toothbrush dies. So, what happens then? 

Appliances including dishwashers, washing machines and air conditioners can be taken right away by the shop deliveryman/woman delivering your brand new appliance, thanks to take-back schemes obligation financed by manufacturers. Small appliances like coffee machines, toothbrushes or toasters, can be brought to container parks, to the shop from which you are buying your new product or to the nearest supermarket. From there, collection networks handle the collected e-waste before shipping it to a recycling centre. And that’s where the fun begins!

Once successfully collected, sorted, and aggregated at the recycling centre, appliances such as electric toothbrushes are dismantled and separated. The plastics used in the handle, for instance, are shredded and melted to produce new electric toothbrushes, razors or food storage containers. 

Keeping critical materials in the loop is key to minimising the amount of waste produced, and reducing carbon emissions to pave the way towards a circular economy where today’s products are tomorrow’s raw materials. 

Ultimately, recycling helps protect our environment, lowers the cost of manufacturing new products, and enables the e-waste recycling industry to create jobs. Why wouldn’t we recycle our old appliances properly?

#WEEEall - We are all responsible for our e-waste. Discover more at

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