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Electronic waste

Posted by Maria Cristina Chiulli on

In 2021, human beings will discard an estimated 57.4 million tonnes (approximately 63.3 million U.S. tons) of electronic waste. That waste will outweigh the Great Wall of China, the world's heaviest human construction. This is why the WEEE Forum is calling for these items to be repaired or recycled instead of discarded. 

Each of us has a crucial role in making circularity a reality for e-products. 

Every tonne of WEEE recycled avoids around 2 tonnes of CO2 emissions. If we all do the right thing with our e-waste we help to reduce harmful CO2 emissions.

2021's mountain of waste didn't grow out of nowhere. In 2019, we generated 53.6 million tonnes (approximately 59.1 million tons), up 21% from 2014. If nothing changes, that number is supposed to hit 74 million tonnes (approximately 81.6 million tons) by 2030, meaning that e-waste is growing by about 3% to 4% every year, due to the growing consumption of electronics, smaller periods between new product releases and limited options for repairing broken items. Fast mobile phone development, for example, has led to a market dependency on rapid replacement of older devices. 

Overall, only 17.4% of electronic waste is properly recycled worldwide. This is a major waste, both financially and ecologically. Embedded in 1 million cell phones, for example, are 24 kg of gold, 16,000 kg of copper, 350 kg of silver, and 14 kg of palladium — resources that could be recovered and returned to the production cycle. And if we fail to recycle these materials, new supplies need to be mined, harming the environment. Recovering these metals from electronic waste would also burn fewer greenhouse gas emissions than mining for new materials.

Industry and policymakers have important roles to play in creating the recycling and repair systems consumers can easily use. Consumers want to do the right thing but need to be adequately informed, and a convenient infrastructure should be easily available to them so that disposing of e-waste correctly becomes the social norm in communities. (source: ecowatch.com)

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