Record 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste produced globally in 2019 – report
A record 53.6 million metric tonnes (Mt) of electronic waste was generated worldwide in 2019, up 21% in just five years, according to the UN’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020, released on Sunday, 28 June.
The new report also predicts global e-waste – discarded products with a battery or plug – will reach 74 Mt by 2030, almost a doubling of e-waste in just 16 years. This makes e-waste the world’s fastest-growing domestic waste stream, fueled mainly by higher consumption rates of electric and electronic equipment, short life cycles, and few options for repair.
Only 17.4% of 2019’s e-waste was collected and recycled. This means that gold, silver, copper, platinum and other high-value, recoverable materials conservatively valued at US $57 billion — a sum greater than the gross domestic product of most countries – were mostly dumped or burned rather than being collected for treatment and reuse.
According to the report, Asia generated the greatest volume of e-waste in 2019 – some 24.9 Mt, followed by the Americas (13.1 Mt) and Europe (12 Mt), while Africa and Oceania generated 2.9 Mt and 0.7 Mt respectively.
For perspective, last year’s e-waste weighed substantially more than all the adults in Europe, or as much as 350 cruise ships the size of the Queen Mary 2, enough to form a line 125 km long.
E-waste is a health and environmental hazard, containing toxic additives or hazardous substances such as mercury, which damages the human brain and / or coordination system.