Knowledge barrier amplifies e-waste issues in Brazil

Most Brazilians fail to recycle electronic devices, mainly due to a lack of information around it.
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer on

Despite being among the top five countries in the world in terms of electronic waste generation, Brazil only recycles 3% of such items and fails to educate its citizens on the topic, according to new research.

A survey carried out by reverse logistics firm Green Eletron has found that 87% of Brazilians have heard of electronic waste and 42% associate the concept with broken appliances. On the other hand, a third of respondents believe that electronic waste is related to spam, emails, photos, or files.

The lack of knowledge on the e-waste theme is further reinforced in other findings of the survey: 71% of respondents claimed that there is not much information in the media on the subject.

Most Brazilians (87%) keep some type of unused electronic items such as smartphones at home and more than 30% keep them for more than a year. Some 72% of those polled keep retired smartphones at home, while 48% keep unused items such as modems, tablets, and notebooks.

A third of those surveyed said they never heard of recycling points or places where they could discard their electronic items correctly. Moreover, lack of knowledge about e-waste recycling is greater among the lower working class (41%), compared with 24% of the Brazilian elite and 26% from the upper-middle class who had never heard of places where it is possible to discard electronic waste.

Only 7% of those polled handle their unused items properly, by donating or selling them, or discarding them properly, the study noted.

According to the research, 14% of Brazilians aged between 18 and 25 years said they don't know what electronic waste is, compared to 5% of adults aged 26 to 45 years old and 3% of those aged between 46 to 65 years old. However, young respondents were less likely to associate e-waste with spam.

Electronic waste is the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, according to the United Nations Global e-waste monitor 2020. Some 53.6 million metric tonnes of e-waste have been generated in 2019 alone. According to the UN's predictions, global e-waste will reach 74Mt annually by 2030.

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