electronic waste

Only 20 per cent of world’s e-waste is recycled, UN report finds

Just 20 per cent of the world’s electronic waste (e-waste) is being recycled, according to a new report from the UN.

Last year, the world generated approximately 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste, but the majority has been found to end up in landfill or burned.

The report also highlights the lack of reliable e-waste data at the country level. Often, merely anecdotal evidence is available on the production, management and recycling of e-waste and only 41 countries in the world collect international statistics on e-waste.

“Better data is an important step towards addressing the e-waste challenge,” the report states.

“Statistics help to evaluate developments over time, set and assess targets, and identify best practices of policies.

“Better e-waste data will eventually contribute to minimizing e-waste generation, prevent illegal dumping and improper treatment of e-waste, promote recycling, and create jobs in the refurbishment and recycling sector.”

In January, the UN launched the ‘Global Partnership for E-waste Statistics’ in an attempt to boost the number of countries that are accurately tracking their e-waste.

A lot of the waste generated is disposed of through open burning which poses significant risks to the environment and human health.

Open burning practices typically take place in developing countries where operators will try and extract key materials such as metals after less valuable resources such as plastic have been burned away.

The process typically creates noxious fumes that can be extremely harmful and many people who work on the dump sites lack the proper equipment to protect themselves from the most dangerous elements being released into the air.

The report blames the growing amount of e-waste on a variety of different trends.

“The global information society is growing at great speed,” it reads. “It is characterized by an increasing number of users and rapid technological advances that are driving innovation, efficiency, and social and economic development.”

The amount of e-waste is expected to increase from 44.7 million metric tonnes to 52.2 million metric tonnes by 2021.

Asia was found to generate the greatest amount of e-waste while Africa creates the least, both in total and per inhabitant.

This follows another UN report from earlier this year that shows that the amount of electronics being discarded in Southeast Asia has rocketed since 2010. 

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