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Global e-waste grows 8% in two years, 20% recycled


A new assessment on global electronic waste (e-waste), policies, and statistics has revealed an eight per cent growth in the menace within two years with 20 percent recycled.
This was disclosed by the Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, released by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialised agency for information and communication technology – together the United Nations University (UNU), and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA).

The Global E-Waste Monitor represents an important step in identifying solutions for e-waste. Better e-waste data will help evaluate developments over time, set and assesses targets, and contributes to developing national policies.


Also, national e-waste policies will help minimise e-waste production, prevent illegal dumping and improper treatments of e-waste, promotes recycling, and create jobs in the refurbishment and recycling sector.

As such, the agencies seek to increase global awareness and draw attention to the growing world issue of e-waste, said the menace includes discarded products with a battery or plug including mobile phones, laptops, televisions, refrigerators and electrical toys.
The assessment showed that in 2016, 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste were generated, up 3.3 million metric tonnes (eight per cent) from 2014.  In 2016, only about 20 per cent or 8.9 million metric tonnes (MMT) of all e-waste was recycled. Experts foresee a further 17 per cent increase to 52.2 MMT of e-waste by 2021.
The assessment also highlighted the significant and growing risk to the environment and human health due to increasing levels of e-waste and its improper and unsafe treatment and disposal through burning or in dumpsites.
The ITU report also revealed that there were now a growing number of countries adopting e-waste legislation. Currently 66 per cent of the world population, living in 67 countries, is covered by national e-waste management laws, a significant increase from 44 per cent in 2014.
National e-waste policies and legislation play an important role as they set standards, guidelines and obligations to govern the actions of stakeholders who are associated with e-waste.
ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao, noted that environmental protection is one of the three pillars of sustainable development and that the Union is at the forefront of advocating for the safe disposal of waste generated by information and communication technologies.
“E-waste management is an urgent issue in today’s digitally dependent world, where use of electronic devices is ever increasing – and is included in ITU’s Connect 2020 Agenda targets. The Global E-waste Monitor serves as a valuable resource for governments developing their necessary management strategies, standards and policies to reduce the adverse health and environmental effects of e-waste – and will help ITU members to realize this Connect 2020 target,” he added.
From his perspective, the Director, ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, Brahima Sanou, said: “With 53.6 per cent of global households now having Internet access, information and communications technologies are improving peoples’ lives and empowering them to enhance their social and economic well-being.  

The assessment also reports that low recycling rates can have a negative economic impact, as e-waste contains rich deposits of gold, silver, copper, platinum, palladium and other high value recoverable materials. It estimates that the value of recoverable materials contained in e-waste generated during 2016 was $55billion, which is more than the Gross Domestic Product of most countries in the world.

The Vice-Rector, UNU, Jakob Rhyner, observed that the world’s e-waste problem continues to grow.

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