Electronic equipment recycling withstands slowdown arising from pandemic in 2020 and Ecopilas breaks collection record


Electronic equipment and battery recycling in Spain withstood the slowdown caused by Covid-19 in 2020, despite the restrictions on mobility and the decline in commercial and productive activity arising from the health crisis. In fact, Recyclia, which manages four environmental foundations dedicated to this activity, managed 59,154 tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and batteries last year. Ecopilas broke its record by collecting 7,315 tonnes of batteries and accumulators and is now the fifth largest EPR management scheme in Europe in terms of volume of waste managed. The environmental management of solar panels grew by 329% to 481 tonnes in 2020.

Electronic equipment accounted for 51,839 tonnes of the above total, meaning that the organisation achieved the target it set itself subsequent to the declaration of the pandemic, which was to try to maintain the volume of e-waste above 50,000 tonnes, following the record-breaking 57,520 tonnes managed in 2019. Since its creation, Recyclia has managed 415,720 tonnes of this type of waste. 

In 2020, Recyclia, through the Ecopilas foundation, set a record with the collection of 7,315 tonnes of domestic, industrial and automotive batteries and accumulators. Ecopilas, which has managed more than 43,600 tonnes of batteries since its creation, is now the fifth-largest EPR collective scheme managing this type of waste in Europe, according to European association Eucobat.

José Pérez, CEO at Recyclia explains that, “After this unexpected year, I think we can conclude that the environmental awareness of citizens and the entire electronics commercial chain has reached a level of maturity that we can all congratulate ourselves on. We have also borne witness to the capacity for work and the determination of all the men and women in this sector, who have made it possible to maintain the impetus of the waste recycling chain”.

The volume of solar panels recycled grew by 329% to a total of 481 tonnes in 2020. It should be borne in mind that solar panel recycling only became mandatory in 2015, when they were legally deemed to be electronic waste.

Recyclia registered an increase of 4% in the number of manufacturers and importers of electronic equipment and batteries joining its foundations, bringing the total number of member companies to 1,684 in 2020. 12,509 new collection points were added to the network last year, bringing the total to 91,780 throughout Spain, 16% more than in 2019.

Of particular note in this respect is the addition of 3,667 new collection points to the Ecopilas network (up 9% on 2019) and 5,646 to the Tragatóner/Tragatinta network (up 74%). The latter is Recyclia’s initiative for the management of printer and toner cartridges. The Ecopilas network now has 44,617 collection points, making it the most extensive in Spain.

e-waste types

The Ecofimática foundation managed 6,357 tonnes of office and printing equipment in 2020, bringing the accumulated total to more than 61,600 tonnes since its creation. The foundation also collected 438,517 kg of print cartridges last year (up 18% on 2019), through its network of 13,298 Tragatoner/Tragatinta collection points.

Ecoasimelec, the foundation dedicated to the management of all other types of electronic waste, managed 39,421 tonnes in 2020, down just 5% on 2019. Household appliances accounted for 87% of the total. The foundation also added 648 new collection points to its network in 2020, bringing the total to 17,854.

Finally, Ecolum collected 6,061 tonnes of lighting waste (up 7% on 2019) through its 7,357 collection points, 28.5% of which were deployed last year.