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e-waste volumes up 8% in two years, says ITU.

The volume of e-waste, created by discarded

electrical items, grew by 8% from 2014 to 2016, but only 20% was recycled,

according to a report from the UN.

The Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, prepared by the

International Telecommunication Union (ITU) shows increasing volumes of waste

from old electronic items including mobile phones, laptops, televisions,

refrigerators and electrical toys. In 2016, 44.7 million metric tonnes of

e-waste were generated, an increase of 3.3 million metric tonnes from 2014, and

volumes are expected to reach 52.2 million metric tonnes by 2021.

There is a significant risk to the environment and human

health due to increasing levels of e-waste, which is also increasing, due to

improper and unsafe treatment and disposal through burning or in dumpsites.

"Environmental protection is one of the three pillars of

sustainable development and ITU 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," said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. "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."

The report was created by the ITU, the United Nations

specialized agency for information and communication technology, together the

United Nations University (UNU) and the International Solid Waste Association


The assessment also notes positive news - that there is now

a growing number of countries adopting e-waste legislation. Currently 66% of

the world population, living in 67 countries, is covered by national e-waste

management laws, a significant increase from 44% 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.

"With 53.6% 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," said Brahima

Sanou, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau. "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 assess targets, and contribute to developing national policies.

National e-waste policies will help minimize e-waste production, prevent illegal

dumping and improper treatment of e-waste, promote recycling, and create jobs

in the refurbishment and recycling sector."

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 $55 billion, which is more than the Gross Domestic

Product of most countries in the world.

"The world's e-waste problem continues to grow.

Improved measurement of e-waste is essential to set and monitor targets, and

identify policies," said Jakob Rhyner, Vice-Rector of the United Nations

University. "National data should be internationally comparable, frequently

updated, published and interpreted. Existing global and regional estimates

based on production and trade statistics do not adequately cover the health and

environmental risks of unsafe treatment and disposal through incineration or


"We live in a time of transition to a more digital world,

where automation, sensors and artificial intelligence are transforming industry

and society," said Antonis Mavropoulos, President of the International Solid

Waste association (ISWA). "E-waste is the most emblematic by-product of this

transition and finding the proper solutions for e-waste management is a measure

of our ability to utilize the technological advances to stimulate a sustainable

future and to make the circular economy a reality. We need to be able to

measure and collect data and statistics on e-waste, locally and globally, in a

uniform way. This report represents a significant effort in the right direction

and ISWA will continue to support it as a very important first step towards the

global response required."

Earlier this year ITU, UNU and ISWA joined forces and

launched the "Global Partnership for E-waste Statistics". Its objective is to

help countries produce e-waste statistics and to build a global e-waste

database to track developments over time.

This partnership further aims to map recycling opportunities

from e-waste, pollutants and e-waste related health effects, along with

building national and regional capacities to help countries produce reliable

and comparable e-waste statistics that can identify best practices of global

e-waste management. Ultimately, its work will contribute to the achievement of

Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 11.6 and 12.5 by monitoring relevant waste

streams and tracking the ITU Connect 2020 target 3.2 on e-waste.

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Date:Dec 13, 2017
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