Electronic waste (e-waste) level or waste coming from discarded electrical or electronic devices has reached 53.6 million tonnes in 2019. The number is quite alarming as it amounts to a 21% increase in only five years. To scale, this is equivalent to 350 cruise ships enough to make a line of 125 km distance.
According to a report by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), titled Global E-waste Monitor 2020, the increase is because of different factors. Some of these include increasing disposable income, urbanization and mobility, and industrialization in some areas across the globe.
The report also states that each person has an average of 7.3kg of e-waste. This is mainly because of increasing electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) consumption. Interestingly, the acts made by electronics companies to increase profit such as making gadgets with a shorter life cycle, difficulty and issues in repairing these devices also took part in this e-waste increase.
More importantly, and the most concerning is what happens to this e-waste. Research shows that 82.6% of the e-waste whereabout varies in different areas and are beyond our knowledge.
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The report forecasts that a decade from now, e-waste will increase to 74.7 million tonnes and in another six years will be twice as much. Notably, the materials used are quite hazardous. For instance, PCBs, monitors, and fluorescent lights use 50 tonnes of mercury, which we all know are dangerous to our health.
E-waste is also a serious threat to climate change. The report suggests that 98 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents found in the air come from unused appliances such as refrigerators as well as air conditioners.
In terms of the amount of e-waste produce, Asia ranked first with 24.9 million tonnes a year. However, Europe comes as the main culprit when it comes to per capita waste with 16.2kg every person. Americas is third in the amount of waste while second per capita. Meanwhile, Africa has the least e-waste per capita with the only 2.5kg.
The United Nations Under-Secretary-General Davide Malone stresses that the problem of e-waste has not been dealt with properly. He added that there must be better efforts to ensure sustainable production and disposal of electronic and electrical materials.
Moreover, e-waste problem is an urgent concern. According to ITU, e-waste grows three times faster than the human population.
To solve this rising e-waste problem, companies must refrain from updating their products and letting consumers repair these devices. Another recycling and recovering. E-waste usually comes from precious, rare materials such as gold, iron, and copper. Recycling items with these materials will save a considerable huge amount of money.