E-waste – electronic waste such as phones, cables, TVs, and batteries – is a growing problem across the globe. According to Statista figures, 53.6 million metric tonnes of e-waste was generated in 2019, and this sum is forecast to grow to 74.7 million tonnes by 2030.
The UK is one of the biggest e-waste producers in the world, according to the Environmental Audit Committee’s Electronic Waste and the Circular Economy report, and this is having huge effects – particularly on fly tipping.
To understand the scale of the problem, earlier in 2021, OKdo, an online store offering hobbyist electronics supplies like the Raspberry Pi, scoured the data. Here’s what they found.
Where is e-waste fly tipping most common in the UK?
The highest number of reported e-waste fly-tipping incidents was in Liverpool, where nearly 10,000 (9,992) incidents were reported between 2015 and 2020. That was followed by Manchester (9,677 incidents), Haringey in London (8,536), Bradford (8,816), and Plymouth (7,993).
Leeds (7,981), Birmingham (6,972), Southampton (6,340), Ealing (5,971), and Enfield (5,096) had the next-highest number of incidents, showing that e-waste fly tipping incidents are significantly affecting urban areas up and down the UK.
Where is e-waste increasing?
The greatest growth in e-waste fly tipping incidents between 2015 and 2020 was in Kirklees in West Yorkshire. The metropolitan borough, which covers areas including Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Batley and Mirfield, saw numbers jump by a shocking +6,124%.
Kirklees’ numbers dwarf the next-greatest increase, +1,097%, which occurred in Tower Hamlets, London, which was followed by Surrey Heath (+420%), Hammersmith and Fulham (+403%), and East Hertfordshire (+335%). Big jumps were also seen in South Staffordshire (+331%), Harlow (+321%), Uttlesford (+300%), Warrington (+292%), and Lambeth (+291%).
Looking at these locations, we can see that e-waste is an issue spreading out of cities from areas already experiencing huge levels of e-waste fly tipping. Kirklees is just south of Leeds, for instance, while Surrey Heath is south-west of central London. With organised crime partly behind fly tipping, criminals may be needing to travel further to evade the authorities.
Additionally, separate survey results from OKdo from October 2021 found that the high and increasing numbers may be due to consumer confusion and frustration regarding e-waste recycling. In Manchester, 33% of residents reported not knowing how to recycle e-waste, followed by 34% of those in Birmingham, 31% of people in Leeds, and 29% of Londoners.
These findings are mirrored by DEFRA fly-tipping statistics, which show 15% of all fly tipping incidents (of which there were 17 per 1,000 people in 2020) involved e-waste.
Richard Curtin, SVP of Technology at OKdo, responded to the findings: “As a business and part of the wider Electrocomponents group, we are committed to making responsible choices whilst supporting rapid development. It’s our priority to make sure our customers can trust us to be conscious about our impact and take tangible steps to reduce it.”
Have you experienced e-waste in your area? What do you think councils and the government should do about the problem? Let us know in the comments.