MPs have called for global giants, including Apple and Amazon, to be made responsible for cutting down the 155,000 tonnes of electronic waste thrown away annually in the UK.
An environmental audit committee investigation found that the country is behind other countries in creating a circular economy for electronic waste.
The UK is not collecting and treating its electronic waste properly: “A lot of it goes to landfill, incineration or is dumped overseas. Under current laws producers and retailers of electronics are responsible for this waste, yet they are clearly not fulfilling that responsibility,” wrote the MPs.
The MPs called out online retail giants eBay and Amazon for avoiding responsibility. The companies are not currently liable for contributing to the handling of electronic waste as they are not considered producers or retailers.
“For all their protestations of claimed sustainability, major online retailers and marketplaces such as Amazon have so far avoided playing their part in the circular economy by not collecting or recycling electronics in the way other organisations have to,” said the MPs.
“Given the astronomical growth in sales by online vendors, particularly this year during the coronavirus pandemic, the EAC calls for online marketplaces to collect products and pay for their recycling to create a level playing field with physical retailers and producers that are not selling on their platforms.”
The MPs also condemned “built-in obsolescence” and intentional shortening of the lifespan of many electronic products, as well as criticising the repairability of products.
The report said that consumers had no control over the products they purchase and cannot easily take out components to repair items themselves.
“Instead, the charges proposed for repair by Apple in particular can be so expensive it is more economical to replace the item completely,” said the report.
“Tech companies should now take the lead in creating sustainable and environmentally friendly business models that do not rely on the over exploitation of nature and natural resources.”
Head of resource policy at the Green Alliance thinktank, Libby Peake, said the report was well-timed. “Just before the Christmas shopping season gets going, the environmental audit committee has reminded us that many of the products we buy in the UK are destined not to last – which is a scandal for consumers as much as for the environment.
“More importantly, it has identified what we need to do to change this and make sure people can buy long-lasting products as well as have the right to repair them.”
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