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UN reports a 21% leap in global e-waste generation

UN reports a 21% leap in global e-waste generation

July 28, 2020
Marcia González

A record 53.6 million metric tons of electronic waste was generated worldwide in 2019, up 21% in just five years, the UN’s recent Global E-waste Monitor 2020 has revealed

The report also predicts global e-waste generation – discarded products with a battery or plug – will reach 74 million metric tons by 2030, almost a doubling of e-waste in just 16 years. This makes e-waste generation the world’s fastest-growing domestic waste stream, fueled mainly by higher consumption rates of electric and electronic equipment, short life cycles, and few options for repair. Only 17.4 per cent of 2019’s e-waste was collected and recycled. This means that gold, silver, copper, platinum and other high-value, recoverable materials conservatively valued at US$57 billion – a sum greater than the GDP of most countries – were mostly dumped or burned rather than being collected for treatment and reuse.

According to the report, Asia generated the greatest volume of e-waste in 2019, some 24.9 million metric tons, followed by the Americas (13.1 million metric tons) and Europe (12 million metric tons), while Africa and Oceania generated 2.9 and 0.7 million metric tons respectively. For perspective, last year’s e-waste weighed substantially more than all the adults in Europe, or as much as 350 cruise ships the size of the Queen Mary 2, enough to form a line 125km long.

E-waste generation is a health and environmental hazard, containing toxic additives or hazardous substances such as mercury, which damages the human brain and/or coordination system. Proper e-waste management can help mitigate global warming. In 2019, an estimated 98 million metric tons of CO2-equivalents were released into the atmosphere due to e-waste generation, discarded fridges and air-conditioners, contributing roughly 0.3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2014, the number of countries that have adopted a national e-waste generation policy, legislation or regulation in place has increased from 61 to 78.

While a positive trend, this is far from the target set by the International Telecommunication Union which is to raise the percentage of countries with an e-waste generation legislation to 50%.

E-Waste World Conference & Expo 2020 takes place from Wednesday 18 November to Thursday 19 November at the Kap Europa, Frankfurt Messe, Germany. To register for this highly focused, solutions-driven event, please click here. For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, please email peter@trans-globalevents.com

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