A feature of the technological age is the high consumption and replacement of various types of equipment, which is not always related to the practical need to replace broken equipment. According to a study of consumer habits when buying and using electrical appliances, which was conducted under the auspices of the LIFE Waste to Resources IP project, on average, Latvian consumers buy new electrical appliances once every four years, and small household appliances more than once a year.* Meanwhile, 23% of end-of-life but still usable appliances end up in household waste. The main reasons for this are that disposal points for electrical appliance waste are too far away or unavailable and there is a lack of information about disposal options.
Overall, the vast majority (88%) of people in Latvia have bought at least one electric appliance during the past year. 55% of respondents said they had bought small household appliances during the last 12 months, while 41% had bought a mobile phone, paying an average of €895.80 for their purchases. For the absolute majority (87%), the main reason for buying new appliances is that their existing appliance is broken, while 47% say they buy new appliances because their existing one is outdated. This answer is significantly more common among the younger age group (18-29), those with a net personal income above €950, those with a good family financial situation, and those who have purchased appliances such as beauty and health appliances, videos, audio, games consoles, computers and mobile phones during the last year.
The most popular way to buy electrical appliances is to do so in person in specialist electrical shops, with two thirds of respondents replying accordingly, suggesting that it is still important for consumers to see and touch the equipment in person before buying it. Meanwhile, half of the respondents indicate that they purchase appliances from Latvian online shops, and another third from telecommunication service providers.
If an appliance breaks down, two thirds of respondents try to repair it, more often than not by using a seller's warranty (59%). 55% of all respondents have used an electrical appliance repair service at least once, and 45% have done so in the last year. The main reasons given by those who have not done so are that the appliances are outdated anyway and they want to buy new ones (42%), that repairs are too expensive (37%) and that there is no need to repair electrical appliances (33%). The appliances most frequently repaired are computers and mobile phones, whereas large household appliances are repaired less often. Overall, 93% of respondents rated the quality of repairs as good.
Around two thirds of people give away appliances that they no longer need, but which are still in working order to friends or relatives. Another 14% take broken or worn-out appliances to sorting yards or special drop-off points, while 5% have them taken away by a waste management company. Around one fifth of large household appliances, beauty and health electronics, as well as televisions are recycled at special points or by a recycling company. On average, 15% of computers, small household appliances, video, audio and games consoles and power tools are taken to a recycling centre. However, 4% of respondents dispose of electrical appliance by throwing them into in the household waste container.
When asked about the reasons why they tend to dispose of used or broken electrical appliances in household waste containers instead of recycling them, more often than not people explain that the drop-off points are too far away or unavailable (65%) and there is a lack of information about the possibilities to drop off electrical appliances (62%). On average, one third also mentioned that the waste manager does not offer an electrical appliance collection service (39%), that they are neither motivated nor willing to hand over electrical appliances (37%), that it is too complicated and time-consuming (31%) as the main reasons. One fifth of respondents point to a lack of information about the environmental harm of electrical appliances. More often than not, these are younger people (18-39 years old) and Rigans.
In general, people in Latvia are quite open to buying second-hand electrical equipment: six out of 10 people (61%) in Latvia say they would consider doing so, with the price being the primary factor in their thinking. Around a third say they cannot afford to buy new electrical equipment. One fifth give environmental protection as a reason, in order to save resources and extend the life cycle of goods. Younger people (18-29 years old) are more open to buying second-hand appliances. The biggest barrier to buying second-hand appliances is uncertainty as to whether the appliances will work or not. People also say that they prefer to buy new appliances or never buy second-hand at all. However, more than half of the respondents indicate that they would prefer to buy second-hand electrical equipment if there were official electrical repair and sales centres in Latvia. Just 8% of respondents stated that they had bought appliances from second-hand goods’ marketplaces during the last year. Video, audio and games consoles, large household appliances and beauty and health appliances are most typically purchased there.
According to the data, 40% of respondents associate sorting and recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment with Latvijas Zaļais punkts. Almost one quarter or 24% associate it withEco Baltia vide, 22%, whileCleanR, environmental management organisations such asTolmets (16%), ZAAO (12%),Zaļā josta (11%) and BAO (8%) are also mentioned. However, one in four respondents could not name any associations with any of the environmental organisations, which only underlines the need to raise public awareness about sorting and drop-off points for electrical appliances, their locations and, in general, the importance of the utlization of electrical appliances in the context of environmental protection.
*The study “An Assessment of Consumers’ Electrical Appliance Usage Habits” was conducted under the auspices of Project No. LIFE20 IPE/LV/000014 – LIFE Waste To Resources IP in July 2022 by conducting an internet survey of 1,007 Latvian residents aged 18–74 years.