The weight of "e-waste" in 2016 was equivalent to about 4,500 Eiffel Towers, according to the joint study by the UN University, the International Telecommunication Union and the International Solid Waste Association. By 2021 there will be a 17 percent increase, making e-waste the fastest growing part of the world's domestic waste stream, according to the study.
"The Global E-waste Monitor serves as a valuable resource for governments developing their necessary management strategies, standards and policies to reduce the adverse health and environmental effects of e-waste", said Zhao Houlin. The US has the dubious distinction of not only being near the top when it comes to the most total e-waste generated, but also when it comes to the amount produced per person.
"Without better statistics on e-waste, and closing the main data gaps of current e-waste statistics, it is impossible to measure the effectiveness of existing and new legislation to show any potential improvements in the future" the report says.
The World Generated 4500 Eiffel Towers' Worth Of Electronic Waste Last Year
Only 20 per cent of 2016's e-waste is documented to have been collected and recycled despite rich deposits of gold, silver, copper, platinum, palladium and other high value recoverable materials. Germany had the highest quantity of e-waste generated in Europe, while the average European inhabitant generated 16.6kg of electronic waste.
The report also noted just how much of the waste we throw away actually still is useful.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that even collecting 50% of mobile phones in Europe at the end of their life and re-using, remanufacturing or recycling them would save over $1 billion (£750 million).
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In 2016, only about 20pc of all e-waste was recycled.
However, Oceanic countries generated the most electronic waste per person, followed by Europe. In 2007, only about 20 percent of the world's population was online, but that number has since increased to almost 50 percent.
The report, Global E-waste Monitor 2017, said that domestically India produced 1.95 million tonnes of e-waste past year - or about 1.5 kg per person - and it also imports it from developed countries.
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With a population of 7.4 billion, the world now has 7.7 billion mobile-cellular subscriptions. "Improved measurement of e-waste is essential to set and monitor targets, and identify policies". India's electronics industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, it said while noting that the formal e-waste recycling sector in India is now being developed in major cities. And while a few startup companies around the world are taking advantage of the technologies available to extract minerals from e-waste, itis obvious more will need to be done.
Still, only 41 countries quantify their e-waste generation and recycling streams officially and "the fate of a large majority of e-waste (34.1 of 44.7 Mt) is simply unknown".
"National data should be internationally comparable, frequently updated, published and interpreted".
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