Rising global e-waste major cause for concern: UNITAR report
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E-waste volume could hit 82 million tonnes by 2030: report

E-waste volume could hit 82 million tonnes by 2030: report

Worldwide, the annual generation of e-waste is rising by 2.6 million tonnes annually

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Rising e-waste cause for concer shows UNITAR report GettyImages-172261628

As the world races towards digital advancement, a silent crisis is brewing beneath the surface, threatening both our environment and public health.

The UN’s fourth Global E-waste Monitor 2024 has sounded the alarm, revealing shocking statistics that paint a grim picture of our current trajectory.

The report — from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) — unveils a stark reality: e-waste (or electronic waste) is proliferating at an alarming rate, outpacing documented recycling efforts by a staggering fivefold.

In 2022 alone, the world churned out a massive 62 million tonnes of e-waste, a volume that could fill 1.55 million 40-tonne trucks, forming a mammoth bumper-to-bumper line encircling the equator.

Despite this monumental figure, less than a quarter of the generated e-waste was properly collected and recycled, leaving behind a whopping $62bn worth of recoverable natural resources and exacerbating pollution risks worldwide.

A dire forecast

The trajectory is unsettling. E-waste generation is projected to soar by 2.6 million tonnes annually, reaching a daunting 82 million tonnes by 2030—a 33 per cent increase from 2022 levels.

This ominous forecast is compounded by the health and environmental hazards posed by e-waste, laden with toxic additives such as mercury, capable of inflicting irreparable harm to human health and ecosystems.

Many challenges contribute to this widening gap, including technological progress, rampant consumerism, limited repair options, and design flaws. The report underscores the urgent need for robust e-waste management infrastructure to tackle this burgeoning crisis.

Nikhil Seth, executive director of UNITAR, emphasised the urgent need for attention, asserting that amidst the push for renewable energy and digital progress, the surge in e-waste demands immediate action.

Kees Baldé, lead author at UNITAR, issued a call to action for radical change. “Simply put: Business as usual can’t continue. This new report represents an immediate call for greater investment in infrastructure development, more promotion of repair and reuse, capacity building, and measures to stop illegal e-waste shipments. And the investment would pay for itself in spades.”

In numbers: Scale of the e-waste crisis

62 million tonnes: E-waste generated in 2022, equivalent to 107,000 of the world’s largest passenger aircraft.
900 million tonnes: Primary ore extraction avoided by recycling documented e-waste.
93 million tonnes: CO2-equivalent emissions avoided by formal e-waste management.
$91b: Value of metals embedded in 2022 e-waste, including copper, gold, and iron.
$28bn: Value of secondary raw materials reclaimed through “urban mining” of e-waste.

Ruediger Kuehr, senior manager, Sustainable Cycles (SCYCLE) Programme, UNITAR, and adjunct professor, University of Limerick (Ireland), said: “Improved e-waste management could result in a global net positive of $38bn, representing a significant economic opportunity while addressing climate change and health impacts.”

Read: UAE’s first battery recycling plant to power circular economy

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