e-Waste Recycling Projects Desperately Needed

Last year 42 million tons of electronic waste (e-waste) was discarded around the world, 2 million more than the year before.

The United Nations says 50 million tons could be dumped each year by 2018. If you loaded this waste into 40 ton trucks and park them bumper to bumper, they would stretch from New York to Tokyo and back again. Put other way, the e-waste weighs 110 times more than State Empire Building, or 7 times more than the great pyramid of Giza.

As the amount of e-waste grows bigger, so does the problem. Less than one sixth of this is getting recycled. This means around 300 tons of gold (about a 10th of global production) and 1 000 tons of silver are left unrecovered in the e-waste, as well as harmful lead, mercury and other compounds being dumped.

Much of this e-waste is being shipped to countries such as China, India, Nigeria and Ghana who receive the most. Itís here the toxic elements pollute the environment and poison people. The UN has banned shipment to other countries and campaigns to other countries to do the same by investing on recycling.

They say without this, the amount of e-waste will continue to be the dark-side of the unquenchable appetite for electronics and appliances.

The driving force of this is the latest gadgets which we use in our households to make our lives easier but also the decreasing lifespan of these products because we want the latest and this contributes to the e-waste mountain. The greatest producers are China and USA.

Old kitchen, bathroom and laundry equipment made up 60% of the 42 million tons of electronic waste thrown away in 2014. Only 16% of the items discarded found their way into proper recycling and re-use schemes.

The USA was the nation which disposed of most electronic waste with 7 kilotons generated in 2014. China was second (6 kilotons) and Japan third (2 kilotons). European nations topped the rankings of regions measured by how much waste each citizen generated. In Norway, each inhabitant did away with about 28.4kg of electronic waste.. Across Africa levels of e-waste generated per inhabitant were lower at 1,7kg per person.

Rising levels of discarded electronic equipment were being driven by the growing popularity of domestic electronics and because many modern devices did not last as long as older versions of the same products.

Far more should be done to capture e-waste and "mine" the valuable resources used to make such equipment, said UN under-secretary-general David Malone, rector of the UN University. "Worldwide, e-waste constitutes a valuable 'urban mine' - a large potential reservoir of recyclable materials," he said.

Buried within the 42 million tons of waste was more than 16 000 kilotons of iron, 1 900 kilotons of copper and 300 tons of gold as well as other precious metals such as palladium. The combined value of all these valuable resources was about $52bn (£35bn).

In addition, said Mr Malone, the massive amount of waste represented a potential toxic stockpile as many of the devices used materials, such as lead, that were hazardous which needed to be disposed of carefully.


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