Lightweight for you, heavyweight for the planet.

Manufacturing something new generates a large amount of waste that we as consumers can’t see when we buy a new product. This is referred to as invisible waste.

Illustratioonid - Lightweight for you, heavyweight for the planet. Nähtamatud Jäätmed - Lightweight for you, heavyweight for the planet.

Invisible waste – what’s that?

A great amount of raw materials go into producing something new: from crude oil to wood and from various metals to cotton. And let’s not forget water and energy, which are almost always used during manufacturing, too. So, when we buy the final product, we usually aren’t aware, nor can we see the waste generated in its manufacturing process. This kind of waste is called invisible waste and as a rule, it leaves a greater environmental footprint than the handling of the final product after it’s discarded. For example, the true weight of a laptop computer is around 1,200kg, which is the amount of invisible waste generated in its manufacturing process.

 

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In order to make production and consumption more environmentally friendly and decrease the negative impact on the planet and human health, it is important to extend the products’ life cycle and make repairing and recycling as simple as possible. Increasing a product’s life span will reduce the need for new production and thus, decrease the quantity of waste generated during manufacturing.

What can I do about it?

Make informed decisions whenever you buy a new product and ask yourself: do I really need it? Or perhaps the solution is to repair your old product, rent or share a product or buying it second-hand. These actions save a large amount of resources that would otherwise go into making a new product and generate more waste. After all, the best waste is the one that is not generated.

Tips to reduce invisible waste

Consume less

By only buying the things you really need, you reduce waste generated during manufacturing and post-consumption.

Repair

If something is broken, try to repair it before discarding it and buying something new.

Rent or lend

If it is broken beyond repair, consider renting or lending the kind of product you need before you’re buying a new one

Buy second-hand

If repairing or renting it isn’t an option, prefer buying the item second-hand.

Buy consciously

Whenever possible, buy environmentally friendly products. Such products can be recognized by eco-labels found here.

Recycle!

Be sure to collect different types of waste separately so that they can be recycled as much as possible. Find out more about it at kuhuviia.ee.

Less package, more product

Buy products that have as little packaging as possible since packaging often is unnecessary waste, too.

More recommendations

Take a look at more useful recommendations for companies, educational institutions, apartment associations, local governments, and others at the Ministry of the Environment’s website.

How much and what kind of waste is generated in the manufacturing of a laptop, a smartphone, and a pair of jeans?

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Jeans

Cotton jeans weigh 700g on average, but the quantity of invisible waste generated during their production adds up to 25kg.

Textile waste accounts for 91% of it, whilst 7,5% is metal waste and 1,5% other types of waste.

25kg

of invisible waste

CO2 6.3kg
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Laptop computer

A laptop computer that weighs a couple of kilograms, ends up generating 1,200kg of waste during its manufacturing process. 77% of that waste is generated to produce the printed circuit board (PCB).

Around 10% of the waste is generated in the production of the LCD module, 5% in the production of the DVD-ROM Drive, 3,5% in the production of various cables and plugs, and 4,5% in the production of the rest of the products.

1,2t

of invisible waste

CO2 210kg
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Smart phone

A modern smartphone weighs only 200g, or even less, but generates 85kg of invisible waste by itself.

Most of the waste is generated in the production of its shell – 1/3 in the production of the display, 18% in the production of glass, and the rest in the production of cables, plugs, and adapters.

85kg

of invisible waste

CO2 110kg

About the campaign

The penultimate week in November is the European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR). Each year the week has a thematic focus and this year the spotlight is on invisible waste.

In Estonia, the Ministry of the Environment is responsible for raising awareness around the topic.

If you’re interested in what other countries are doing too, take a look here. As issues around waste are closely tied to circular economy efforts, you can also find more useful information on the Estonian Circular Economy webpage.

Ministry of the Environment social media