Sunday, March 28, 2021

By Cate McCurry, PA

Young people are the worst at recycling small electrical items and hoard the most old batteries, a new survey suggests.

The study reveals that despite being viewed as an eco-conscious generation, the country’s over-55s are streets ahead of 18 to 24-year-olds.

Data shows that electrical sales in Ireland grew by 17 per cent in 2020 — but takeback of e-waste through retailers is down 10 per cent in the first two months of this year, making a national takeback target of 65 per cent of sales a major challenge.

The data was compiled by WEEE Ireland, the country’s largest e-waste recycling scheme.

Leo Donovan, chief executive of WEEE Ireland, said: “The findings on younger people falling behind other age groups on recycling end-of-life electrical goods comes as a surprise.

“Environmental activists such as Greta Thunberg strike a chord with the younger generation but this latest research shows the e-waste message is still not getting through to many in this cohort.

“We know that younger people are avid consumers of digital devices and early adopters of new technologies, but we are asking them to be more sustainable in how they manage waste electronics and batteries too.”

The online survey of 1,000 adults, by Empathy Research, showed that nearly a third of 18 to 24-year-olds discarded their broken devices or other small electrical items in general waste bins, where they end up in landfill never to be recycled.

A total of 18 per cent brought them to a recycling centre and 13 per cent held on to them.

But the brightest sparks were the over-55s, nearly half of whom brought the end-of-life electrical goods to recycling centres and just 7% — more than four times lower than their younger counterparts — dumped them in general waste.

Young people are among the worst offenders for holding on to waste batteries at 15 per cent — mostly men — compared with 0 per cent of those aged over 55.

Electrical Goods
Young people are the worst at recycling small electrical items, a survey suggests (Owen Humphreys/PA) 

However, young people’s awareness that electrical goods can be recycled for free has soared, from a low of 56 per cent in 2019 to 82 per cent this year.

Data across all age groups shows the recycling solution of choice across Ireland is at local civic amenity recycling centres (38 per cent), followed by 20 per cent who hand their goods back to the retailer and 14 per cent to an authorised e-waste collection event.

However, 15 per cent of the population still put kettles, toasters, lamps and other household items in general waste – the highest in the four years analysed.

“This means the valuable materials used in their production end up in landfill or incineration and can never be recovered for use again in the future,” said Mr Donovan.

Asked for a reason why they did not recycle used small appliances, nearly a fifth (19 per cent) said they acted as a back-up in case their main one broke, with a similar number claiming they have not got around to recycling them as yet (18 per cent).

In addition, 18 to 24-year-olds are significantly more likely to claim that the items which could be recycled are worth money so they are not going to recycle them yet – 46 per cent versus four per cent of over-55s.

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