The Global E-waste Monitor 2020 report found that the world produced a record 53.6 million tons of electronic waste in 2019 and just 17.4% was recycled.
This is according to a UN report released on Thursday.
The report said the e-waste surged 21% over the past five years, predicting that it will reach 74 million tons by 2030, almost a doubling of electronic waste in just 16 years.
This means that waste is now the world’s fastest-growing domestic waste stream. This is fueled by the higher consumption rates of electric and electronic equipment and short life cycles.
“E-waste is a health and environmental hazard, containing toxic additives or hazardous substances such as mercury, which damages the human brain and coordination system,” said the report.
The UN’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020 was produced by the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership (GESP), that includes the UN University (UNU), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA).
China, with 10.1-million tonnes, was the biggest contributor to e-waste, and the US was second with 6.9-million tonnes. India, with 3.2-million tonnes, was third. Together these three countries accounted for nearly 38% of the world’s e-waste in 2019.
While the overall damage done to the environment from all the unrecycled waste may be incalculable, the message from the report was conclusive: “The way in which we produce, consume, and dispose of e-waste is unsustainable.”
Global warming is just one issue cited by the report as it noted 98 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents were released into the atmosphere as a result of inadequate recycling of “undocumented” refrigerators and air conditioners.
This year’s coronavirus lockdowns have exacerbated the e-waste problem.
People stuck at home are decluttering, and because of the lockdowns there are few workers collecting and recycling the junk.