Air Clean Up

Are Microwaves as Bad for the Environment as Cars?

Jan 24 2018 Read 815 Times

Missed your optimum tea drinking temperature? In the microwave it goes. Want some piping hot soup? The same goes for that too. 93% of households now own a microwave, and we are all guilty of cutting corners and popping things in for a quick solution. With that in mind, it’s no surprise they’re impacting the environment. And now, there’s even a study suggesting that microwaves are as bad for the environment as cars…

Looking at the entire lifespan

A recent study from the University of Manchester has suggested that microwaves are leaving a much bigger imprint on the plant than expected. So much so, that the emissions generated from microwaves across the EU is equivalent to those emitted by 6.8 million cars.

With microwaves being the biggest seller in the field of ovens, manufacturers are having to keep up with the ever-increasing demand. It’s predicted that 135 million microwaves sold annually by the end of this decade.

Why are emissions so high?

The study looks at emissions over the entire lifespan of a microwave in Europe. That’s from the point of manufacture to disposal. Each microwave is thought to produce 573 kilowatts per hour over an 8-year lifespan – despite spending most of the time on standby. This is equivalent to a 7-watt LED bulb that has been left on continuously for 9 years – contributing to the overall CO2 emissions.

However, it’s the manufacture and disposal management of the microwaves is what generate the most pollution, contributing a whopping 7.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in Europe alone. People seem to be throwing away their microwaves earlier too. The average lifespan of a microwave seems to have dropped by 7 years, with people now keeping them for 6-8 years.

Sadly, very little of them is actually recyclable. Instead, they must be completely disposed of, because of certain dangerous elements contained inside. To put it into context, the annual amount of energy required to build and dispose of microwaves uses the same amount of energy produce by three big gas plants in a year, which have also been the subject of EU laws in recent years.

Can a microwave really be as bad as a car?

However, David Reay, Professor of carbon management at the University of Edinburgh argues that the comparison between the emissions produced by microwaves and cars is a bit dramatic. He acknowledged that, yes, the amount of emissions produced is alarming. But the emissions are dwarfed by cars, he explains. With 30 million cars being used in the UK alone, the 6.8 million cars used as the comparison throughout Europe is just a fraction of the emissions produced by microwaves. Therefore the ‘scare’ seems a little farfetched.

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