A new expert report from United Nations University estimates that a record 53.6 million metric tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) was generated previous year (roughly the weight of 350 cruise ships the size of the Queen Mary 2). "Children live, work, and play in informal e-waste recycling sites", the report says.
The authors of the study calculated the combined weight of all dumped devices with a battery or a plug past year was the equivalent of 350 cruise ships the size of the Queen Mary 2.
Global e-waste is up 21 per cent in just five years, from 43.6 million tons in 2014 to 52.7 million tons last year.
The figure will reach 72.8 million tons by 2030 - nearly a doubling in just 16 years, the United Nations warns. In the process of manually extracting the high-value metal, they hammer and burn electronic components which releases toxic fumes, making them vulnerable to life-threatening diseases.
E-waste in landfills can also seep toxic materials seep into groundwater, affecting animals and plants.
Countries have started to adopt national e-waste policies, but now only 78 have some legislation or regulation in place.
"Substantially greater efforts are urgently required to ensure smarter and more sustainable global production, consumption, and disposal of electrical and electronic equipment", said David Malone, rector at the United Nations University and UN under secretary general.
In terms of global warming, the report estimates that 98 Mt of Carbon dioxide equivalents were released into the atmosphere from discarded fridges and air-conditioners, contributing around 0.3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
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While this recycling is thought to have mitigated the emission of 15 metric tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs), the 44.3 metric tonnes of e-waste which went undocumented in 2019 is likely to generate 98 metric tonnes of GHG emissions over its life-cycle. With every electronic device that is not recycled, materials including gold, silver, and platinum are not recovered-a monetary loss valued at $57 billion, and a hit to the environment as they sit unused while new materials are mined and extracted.
Of the total e-waste past year, Asia contributed the biggest amount - 46.4 per cent - followed by the Americas (24.4 per cent), Europe (22.3 per cent), Africa (5.4 per cent) and Oceania (1.3 per cent). Screens and screens created about half as a lot trash as massive tools however nonetheless amounted to shut to 7 million metric tons of e-waste in 2019.
Helping drive this could be countries with developing markets, where an increasing number of household electronics like refrigerators, air conditioners, and lamps are now being bought.
The UN's Global E-waste Monitor 2020 was produced by the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership (GESP), that includes the UN University (UNU), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA). The report itself paints an incomplete picture, with many countries failing to even report how they deal with it e-waste in the first place.
"If you look at the very extreme low percentage of recycled e-waste, it is a sign that although these policies and legislation are in place, it doesn't do so much", Mijke Hertoghs, head of the environment & emergency telecommunications division at the International Telecommunication Union, told The Verge.
The fact that the global e-waste pile has surged by more than a fifth since means the lack of effective policies around the world needs to be addressed.
In September 2015, the USA and its member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, identifying 17 "sustainable development goals" (SDGs) and 169 targets for "ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all".
Reaching a point where the majority of e-waste is recycled won't be easy. It's the third iteration of such a global e-waste report and part of an effort to quantify the amount of e-waste generated by every country and the gaps when it comes to properly discarding electronics and reusing some of their materials. Small electronics, such as toasters, electric shavers and toys, make up 32 percent of 2019's e-waste.
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