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Blog: How much e-waste does the UK audio visual industry produce annually?

Christopher Pleydell, CEO of Hybrid Events, and the Strategy & Communications Director for the ‘Event Greening Program’, provides summary analysis based on updated figures for an assessment made in 2013 of the e-waste produced by the UK audio visual industry. 

Definition of e-waste 

E-waste includes any discarded, non-functional or obsolete electronic  devices including computer monitors, central processing units, laptop computers, lighting desks, projectors, uninterrupted power supply units, LED screens, light desks, sound desks as well as electric cables and chords.

Definition of Audio – Visual Company

A company whose primary purpose is to supply audio, lighting, broadcast equipment and viewing equipment by hiring this equipment to the event industry.

The Number of Audio-Visual companies in the UK – 453 listed (reference Plimsoll industry analysis)

The analysis – assumptions

Working out tonnage of electronics equipment available to hire in the UK is incredibly challenging. The best estimates are based on trucks owned or on long-term lease contracts with transport companies by Audio-Visual companies to move the equipment. This gives a very conservative estimate as many companies hire transport companies on an ad-hoc basis.

The average weight an AV company can transport with own or long leased trucks = 71.5 tonnes 

Working out the average lifespan of AV equipment is also incredibly challenging as LED screens are upgraded on average every 2 years as cable can last for 20 years. Every year manufacturers release over 700 products which are up-grades or new technology to the sector (based on average number of exhibitors across all global Audio-Visual trade shows data collected from Pro AV).  An average life span of a laptop within the industry is 8 months. Taking in all these factors I have concluded the expected lifespan of electronic equipment within the Audio-Visual sector to be 5 years. This figure is further substantiated based on the Hilton Hotel chain’s Audio-Visual In-House renewal review process, which is every 3 years and results in a change of Audio-Visual supplier every 6 years, resulting in a complete change of In-House AV equipment. 

Audio-Visual companies often hold onto equipment until such a time as the cost for storage of the equipment outweighs its hire value. 

Out of the 453 UK Audio Visual companies over 430 have environmental statements with over 250 stating they maintain an environmental management system most certified against ISO 14001.

The workings

453 companies x 71.5 tonnes of electronic equipment per company = 32,389.5 tonnes of electronic AV equipment in the UK. 

32,389.5 tonnes divided by a lifespan of 6 years = 5,398.25 tonnes of possible electronic waste produced in the UK per year by the audio-visual industry.

How much of this waste goes to be recycled? 

The UNU report said that only one-third of e-waste in the UK is recycled through recognised schemes if this is applied to the Audio-Visual industry you can estimate that 1800 tonnes of e-waste goes to landfill from the Audio-Visual sector in the UK annually. 

Ask Chris a question or find out more about him on LinkedIn

This blog originally appeared in our August 2020 newsletter. Sign up receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox using the form below.

Photo by Josh Sorenson from Pexels.