Amazon and Apple have been “dodging their environmental responsibilities” for the rising amount of electronic waste, MPs have said.
An inquiry into e-waste by the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) concluded that global tech giants need to be held more accountable for what happens to the products they sell after customers throw them away.
More than 150,000 tonnes of e-waste is thrown away each year in the UK, as people discard broken or obsolete computers, smartphones and other electronics.
“For too long companies like Amazon and Apple have been dodging their environmental responsibilities for the products they sell. Too many devices have a limited, and sometimes decreasing, lifespan and end up in bins, eventually going to landfill or incineration,” said EAC chair Philip Dunne.
“There is no chance of precious metals being retrieved, which could quickly become a huge problem as the rare and disappearing materials are crucial for renewable energy such as wind turbines, solar panels and electric car batteries.”
Precious metals found in laptops and smartphones include gold, silver and platinum. The estimated worth of all of these materials within thrown-away electronics is $62.5 billion (£47bn) per year.
The UK is responsible for producing the second-highest amount of e-waste per person in the world, according to a recent report by Green Alliance.
Only Norway generated more e-waste, though the UK lags behind when it comes to recycling. It is estimated that around 40 per cent of the discarded electronics are sent abroad.
“A lot of it goes to landfills, 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,” MPs said.
“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.”
Apple said it was “surprised and disappointed” with the EAC report, claiming it did not reflect the firm’s efforts to conserve and recycle resources.
“There are more options for customers to trade in, recycle and get safe, quality repairs than ever before, and our latest Apple Watch, iPad, and iPhone lineup all use recycled material across key components,” a spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for Amazon added: “Amazon is committed to minimising waste and helping our customers to reuse, repair, and recycle their products, and we provide a range of options that anyone can easily access through the Amazon Second Chance website.
“We have supported the recycling of more than 10,000 tonnes of electronic waste in the UK over the last decade.”