The amount of e-waste — discarded products with a battery or plug — is rising. This is one of the findings of a new global report launched today.
E-waste encompasses everything from end-of-life refrigerators and television sets to solar panels, mobile phones and computers. In 2016, a staggering 44.7 million metric tonnes (Mt) of e-waste were generated— up 3.3 Mt or 8% from 2014. This is equal in weight to almost nine Great Pyramids of Giza, 4,500 Eiffel Towers, or 1.23 million fully loaded 18-wheel 40-ton trucks, enough to form a line 28,160 km long, the distance from New York to Bangkok and back.
This makes e-waste the fastest growing part of the world’s domestic waste stream, and experts foresee a further 17% increase (to 52.2 million metric tonnes) of e-waste by 2021. In 2016, the average worldwide per capita e-waste generated was 6.1 kilograms, up 5% from 5.8 kg in 2014. The increase is on part due to falling prices that now make electronic and electrical devices affordable for most people worldwide, while encouraging early equipment replacement or new acquisitions in wealthier countries.
Only 20% of 2016’s e-waste is documented to have been collected and recycled despite rich deposits of gold, silver, copper, platinum, palladium and other high value recoverable materials.
The Global E-waste Monitor 2017 is a collaborative effort of the United Nations University, represented through its Sustainable Cycles (SCYCLE) Programme hosted by UNU’s Vice-Rectorate in Europe, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA).