Waste High in Electronics

Progress comes at a price

The 2017 Global E-waste Monitor, a three-branch study produced by the United Nations University (UNU), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), was published Wednesday. Its results are quite illuminating.

For all the benefits of energy conservation methods, they also have an adverse effect on the environment. The study found that as the digital economy continues to grow, so does the physical electronic weight produced by it…and there’s limited space to put it.

The report found that, by 2016, the world generated 44.7 million metric tonnes (Mt) of ‘e-waste’ and only 20% was recycled through appropriate channels. This data includes a number of appliances—old refrigerators, television sets, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers—in its categorization of ‘e-waste’, on top of mobile phones, computers, and typical electronics tallies. The mountain of electronic waste is expected to grow another 17 percent by 2021 to 52.2 million metric tones, making it the fastest growing part of the world’s domestic waste stream, according to the report.

Much of the e-waste ends up in low-income countries, third world economies, and generally impoverished areas, where it emits toxic fumes dangerous to both human and atmospheric health. The video above shows a PBS watchdog group tracking e-waste to an electronic dump in China. There are others in West African countries like Ghana, as well as many other parts of the world.

The UNU is a research association based in Tokyo, Japan.

The ITU is a radio network based in Geneva, Switzerland.

The ISWA is a nonprofit association based in Vienna, Austria.


  1. Trash & Trade | Electrical Apparatus Magazine - July 5, 2018

    […] Global E-waste Monitor, a study produced at the end of last year, reported that the mountain of e-waste (electronic waste, which consists of computer hardware, smartphones, wires, and the like, discarded […]

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