Friday 6 December 2019

Microwaves in EU countries emit as much carbon dioxide as 7 million cars, study reveals

‘Given that microwaves account for the largest percentage of sales of all type of ovens in the EU, it is increasingly important to start addressing their impact’

Microwave oven
Microwave oven

Ryan Butcher

Microwaves across the European Union emit as much carbon dioxide as nearly 7 million cars, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Manchester carried out the first ever comprehensive research into the environmental impacts of microwaves, considering their whole life cycle, from “cradle to grave”.

They found that the machines are responsible for 7.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year in the EU, which is the same as the annual emissions of 6.8 million cars.

Microwaves are the most used oven throughout the EU, with numbers set to reach nearly 135 million by 2020.

However, 6.8 million is only a small fraction of the number of cars being used every day in the EU.

There are at least 37.5 million cars and other motor vehicles registered for use in the UK alone. There are also at least 32 million on the roads in France, 37 million in Italy and 45 million in Germany.

And the last time the EU counted the number of cars on its roads was in 2008 when the number topped more than 256 million – which is more than 37 times the number of cars being equated to microwaves in the University of Manchester’s study.

The study also showed that microwaves across the EU consume an estimated 9.4 terawatts per hour of electricity every year, which the University of Manchester claims is the equivalent to the annual electricity generated by three large gas power plants.

The researchers now say that efforts to reduce consumption should focus on improving people’s awareness and behaviour, so they use microwaves more efficiently, for example by reducing electricity use by adjusting the time of cooking to the type of food.

Waste is another major problem with low costs and ease of manufacture meaning more people are throwing away electronic equipment than ever before, including microwaves.

In 2005, across the EU, 184,000 tonnes of waste generated was from discarded microwaves. By 2025 this is estimated to rise to 195,000 tonnes, or 16 million individual units being sent for disposal.

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