Recycling survey reveals alarming e-waste disposal trends in Tipperary

One in eight people continues to dump small electrical items in household bins, new research shows.

And this figure almost doubles among younger age groups, which are perceived as more environmentally conscious.

Oblivious to the serious environmental and public health risks posed by improper disposal, one in four 18-24-year-olds and one in five aged 35-44 get rid of common household electrical items such as smart watches, earbuds and blue tooth speakers in general waste bins.

Laptops, mobile phones, gaming devices, power tools and e-cigarettes are also being tossed in alongside other waste, meaning they can never be re-used or recycled. The survey was conducted by Empathy Research on behalf of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Ireland.

The proliferation of products powered by lithium batteries heightens these dangers, increasing fire safety risks for household waste collection companies.

In the past five years, WEEE Ireland reports a 100% increase in lithium battery powered small electricals coming back for recycling.

The residents of Tipperary have consistently played a significant role in Ireland's electrical waste recycling efforts, with 1488 tonnes of e-waste collected in the county during 2022 alone.

This translates to a recycling rate of 8.88kg per person in the county, below the national average of 10.33kg per person.

“For those that recycle their e-waste, our survey shows 75% do so due to its positive impact on the environment, with over 50% citing concerns over the hazardous components present in some of these devices,” said Leo Donovan, CEO of WEEE Ireland.

“Despite this awareness, a significant number still opt to dispose of their waste electricals improperly, particularly when it involves smaller devices.

“Ireland’s impressive record for recycling larger household electrics needs to be matched when it comes to small electricals to ensure the safe and efficient recovery and reuse of materials they contain.

“Recycling these items is both free and straightforward, as they can be dropped off at numerous, authorised recycling centres and public collection days across Ireland.”

The Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA), whose members collect 95% of household waste in Ireland, echoed these concerns, highlighting the increased fire safety risks posed by lithium batteries in e-waste.

“If electronic waste containing batteries is placed in any of the household bins, it can become an ignition source for fires. That poses a risk to life as well as a threat of environmental pollution, so we ask people to always keep electronic waste out of their household bins.” said Conor Walsh, Secretary of the Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA).

The low recycling rates for small electrics are echoed in global statistics, with the recent Global E-Waste Monitor revealing that less than one quarter (22.3%) of e-waste was properly recycled in 2022, falling sharply to just 12% for small devices.

In addition, a recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study in Ireland revealed that over two-thirds of recyclable waste, including valuable electronic components, are wrongly discarded in general household and commercial bins.

“The demand for critical raw materials contained in electrical devices is expected to skyrocket,” said Mr Donovan, as he emphasised the urgent need to meet forthcoming EU targets and secure sustainable sources of critical raw materials.

“The EU's aim to ensure that by 2030, at least 30% of critical raw materials consumed annually originate from European recycled sources underscores the imperative for swift and decisive action.

“Failure to address these pressing challenges not only risks our environmental and public health but also undermines our collective aspirations for a greener, more sustainable future.”

Details of hundreds of local recycling centres, public collection days and participating retailers for all sizes and types of waste electrical, battery and lighting can be found on