Per person e-waste generation in Canada was 25.3 kg in 2020
Canada’s electronic waste (e-waste) has more than tripled over the last two decades, according to a new study. The trend would continue, it added.
E-waste generation per person increased from 8.3 kilograms in 2000 to 25.3 kilograms in 2020, according to the report. Canadians produced nearly one million tonnes of e-waste in 2020. That is expected to reach 1.2 million tonnes annually by 2030.
The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Waterloo in the province of Ontario. They carried out a comprehensive estimate of e-waste in Canada to better understand the lifecycle of electronic items from point of sale to disposal.
E-waste data from as far back as 1971 was taken into consideration.
“The rising rate of electronic consumption can be attributed to the increased pace of technological developments since the turn of the millennium, shorter device lifespan and consumer habits,” lead researcher Komal Habib, a professor at the university’s School of Environment, Enterprise and Development, was quoted as saying in a statement.
Canada’s e-waste recycling infrastructure has not developed at a pace in line with electronics development, according to the study.
Habib added that since managing e-waste is a shared responsibility, and consumers play a role as well, it is their responsibility to be mindful of their consumption patterns
Consumers don’t need to upgrade their product every year or every two years if it is fully functional and providing the service it was bought for.
More attention should be given to improving repair, refurbishment and product life extension opportunities rather than focusing solely on recycling and material recovery.
The study also suggested that product designers should give more consideration to how metals and minerals can be more easily recovered from devices in a financially viable way.
“That is something which is lacking: a bridge between these two sectors at both ends of a product, at the designer and manufacturer level, as well as the end-of-life level,” Habib said.
Meanwhile, inefficient handling of e-waste can lead to toxic materials being released into the environment, causing environmental and human health problems, as per the study.
Some of the toxic components common in e-waste are: Lead, mercury, flame retardants, cadmium, beryllium and Bisphenol-A (BPA).
These toxic components don’t endanger human safety while using electronics. But once discarded and opened up for disassembly, they may pose high health risk to recycling workers across the world and harm the environment.
The study report was recently published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.