E-waste to increase 38% by 2030: Report

Most electronic waste around the world still not being collected and recycled properly: United Nations University

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Friday 03 July 2020
There was 53.6 million tonnes of electronic waste in 2019, according to a new United Nations University report. Photo: Flickr

Global e-waste — discarded electrical and electronic equipment — will increase by 38 per cent in the decade between 2020 and 2030, according to a new United Nations University (UNU) report.

There was 53.6 million tonnes (MT) e-waste in 2019, according to the report. That is a nearly 21 per cent increase in just five years.

Asia generated the greatest volume of e-waste in 2019 — some 24.9 MT, followed by the Americas (13.1 MT) and Europe (12 MT). Africa and Oceania generated 2.9 MT and 0.7 MT respectively, the report said.

Most E-waste in 2019 consisted of small equipment (17.4 MT), large equipment (13.1 MT) and temperature exchange equipment (10.8 MT). Screens and monitors, lamps, small IT and telecommunication equipment represented 6.7 MT, 4.7 MT, and 0.9 M respectively according to UNU estimates in the report.  

E-waste is a health and environmental hazard, containing toxic additives or hazardous substances such as mercury, which damages the human brain and / or coordination system.

No recycling

Less than 18 per cent of the e-waste generated in 2019 was collected and recycled, according to the report.

This means that e-waste consisting gold, silver, copper, platinum and other high-value, recoverable materials worth at least $57 billion was mostly dumped or burned rather than being collected for treatment and reuse.

The number of countries that have adopted a national e-waste policy, legislation or regulation has increased from 61 to 78 and includes India.

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

There are 312 authorised recyclers of e-waste in India, with the capacity for treating approximately 800 kilotonnes annually.

However, formal recycling capacity remains under utilised, as the large majority of the waste is still handled by the informal sector. About 90 per cent of the country’s e-waste is recycled in the informal sector, according to the report.

Hence, effective implementation of regulations is the way ahead to managing the e-waste that is yet to be regulated in at least 115 countries. 

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