Worldwide – The world generated 44.7 million tonnes of e-waste last year – and only 20% was recycled through appropriate channels, states the United Nations’ latest Global E-waste Monitor. ‘Although 66% of the world’s population is covered by e-waste legislation, more efforts must be made to enforce, implement and encourage more countries to develop e-waste policies,’ it is contended.
The ‘staggering’ global total of 44.7 million tonnes is equivalent per capita to 6.1 kg of discarded electronics in 2016 or, as the United Nations points out, to almost 4500 Eiffel Towers.
The figure represents a 5% increase from the 5.8 kg generated per capita in 2014 and is expected to rise to nearly 7 kg per person (52.2 million tonnes in total) by 2021.
Research indicates that 80% of the e-waste (35.8 million tonnes) was not documented in 2016 while approximately 9 million tonnes was handled sustainably. It is believed that 4% (1.7 million tonnes) of e-scrap originating in higher-income countries was thrown into residual waste.
Meanwhile, the total value of all raw materials present in last year’s discarded electronics has been estimated at around Euro 55 billion. ‘This is more than the 2016 Gross Domestic Product of most countries in the world,’ the report points out.
Asia generated by far the largest amount of e-waste in 2016 (18.2 million tonnes), followed by Europe (12.3 million tonnes), the Americas (11.3 million tonnes), Africa (2.2 million tonnes) and Oceania (0.7 million tonnes).
Although the European total equates to 16.6 kg per capita, the continent also achieved the highest collection rate (35%). The Americas generated 11.6 kg of e-waste per person and collected 17% of the total.
The collection rate in Asia was just 15% although generation amounted to only 4.2 kg per person.
Africa generated less than 2 kg of e-waste per inhabitant last year but very little information is available on collection rates.