Knowledge barrier amplifies e-waste issues in Brazil

Most Brazilians fail to recycle electronic devices, mainly due to a lack of information around it.

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.