WEEE: Five billion phones to be discarded in 2022

Megan Robinson
October 17, 2022

Research by WEEE reveals electronic waste to grow to 74 million tonnes by 2030

It is estimated that 5.3 billion phones will be thrown away this year, according to research by international waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

The research, reported by the BBC, focused on the growing environmental problem of e-waste, as many people keep their old phones instead of recycling them.

WEEE director general Pascal Leroy says: “People tend not to realise that all these seemingly insignificant items have a lot of value and together at a global level represent massive volumes.”

An estimate of 16 billion mobile phones worldwide and a third in Europe are no longer in use and the research highlights that e-waste is the fastest growing and most complex waste streams that affects both human health and environment, as it contains harmful substances.

The organisation Material Focus suggests that in the UK, more than 20 million households have working but unused electrical items which are worth £5.63bn.

The article also highlighted that only 17pc of the world’s e-waste is properly recycled – but the United Nations International Telecommunication Union has set a target to raise that to 30% by next year.

Analyst comments

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at, comments: “Having a backup handset for emergencies or to pass on to a family member makes sense, but some households will have many old devices gathering dust in their drawers. Hanging onto old mobiles means consumers miss the chance to save money by trading them in and bringing them back into service.

“To help cut back on e-waste, consider doing an early spring clean and make sure unused tech is either reused, resold or disposed of sustainably.

“If changing your handset, consider picking a refurbished model. This will save you money at the same time as reducing the e-waste produced from buying a new smartphone.”

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