World generates 44.7 million metric tons of e-waste – Report
It doesn’t look like the world’s e-waste problems will be going away anytime soon, especially so, because of the innovation and the speed in technological advancement and the addiction of humans to electronic devices. A new report by the United Nations University says in 2016, the world generated some 44.7 million metric tons of e-waste, of which only 20 per cent was recycled through appropriate means.
According to the report: ‘The Global E-waste Monitor 2017’ released yesterday December 12, 2017, the amounts of e-waste in the world continues to grow.
“Although 66 per cent of the world’s population is covered by e-waste legislation, more efforts must be made to enforce, implement, and encourage more countries to develop e-waste policies,” the report said, highlighting the lack of reliable e-waste data at the country level.
“Often, merely anecdotal evidence is available on the production, management, and recycling of e-waste, and only 41 countries in the world collect international statistics on e-waste,” it said.
The report provides the most comprehensive overview of global e-waste statistics following the guidelines that were developed by the Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development.
“All the countries in the world combined generated a staggering 44.7 million metric tonnes (Mt), or an equivalent of 6.1 kilogram per inhabitant (kg/inh), of e-waste annually in 2016, compared to the 5.8 kg/inh generated in 2014. This is close to 4,500 Eiffel Towers each year. The amount of e-waste is expected to increase to 52.2 million metric tonnes, or 6.8 kg/inh, by 2021,” it said.
According to the report, Asia was the region that generated by far the largest amount of e-waste (18.2 Mt), followed by Europe (12.3 Mt), the Americas (11.3 Mt), Africa (2.2 Mt), and Oceania (0.7 Mt).
“While the smallest in terms of total e-waste generated, Oceania was the highest generator of e-waste per inhabitant (17.3 kg/inh), with only 6 per cent of e-waste documented to be collected and recycled,” the report noted, indicating that Europe is the second largest generator of e-waste per inhabitant with an average of 16.6 kg/inh; however, Europe has the highest collection rate (35 per cent).
The Americas generate 11.6 kg/inh and collect only 17 per cent of the e-waste generated in the countries, which is comparable to the collection rate in Asia (15 per cent).
The report however, found that Asia generates less e-waste per inhabitant (4,2 kg/inh), while Africa generates only 1.9 kg/inh and little information is available on its collection rate. The report provides regional breakdowns for Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania.
Despite passing a law to manage e-waste in the country, Ghana generated 39 kilo tons of e-waste in the year under review, the report said.
So far in Africa, only Madagascar (2015), Kenya (2016), and Ghana (2016) have formally passed a draft of e-waste bills into law. Several other countries (South Africa, Zambia, Cameroon, and Nigeria) are still working to achieve this in parliament, the report says.
While there are plans to build an e-waste recycling plant in Ghana, the report found that a poorly managed recycling plant is not the solution to managing this hazardous waste that could harm the environment and human health.
The report noted that the use of standardised modern e-waste recycling plants should have been a good solution to the challenges of the informal recycling systems in Africa which often involves the use of illicit labour of pregnant women and minors, as well as a lack of personal protection equipment for the workers.
“Resulting from such practices is the severe pollution of the environment, very poor efficiencies in recovery of expensive, trace, and precious components, and the exposure of labourers and the general populace to hazardous chemical emissions and releases. The Agbogbloshie site in Ghana is the classic example that has received international attention and concern,” it said.
The report however, pointed out that a few modern recycling plants that were established in some east African countries (e.g. Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) have suffered business failures and closures due, in part, to adoption of inappropriate business models.
“Notwithstanding such failures, there is now renewed interest by private business outfits to establish recycling plants in many parts of the continent,” it said.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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