Growing Levels of E-Waste Bad for Environment, Health and Economy
A new report finds growing levels of E-waste pose significant risks to the environment and human health and result in huge economic losses for countries around the world. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from the launch of the International Telecommunication Union report in Geneva.
The global information society is racing ahead at top speed. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) reports nearly half of the world uses the internet and most people have access to mobile phones, laptops, televisions, refrigerators and other electronic devices.
But ITU E-waste Technical Expert, Vanessa Gray, said the ever-increasing expansion of technology is creating staggering amounts of electronic waste.
“In 2016, the world generated a total of 44.7 million metric tons of e-waste—that is, electronic and electrical equipment that is discarded,” Gray said. “So, that basically everything that runs on a plug or on a battery. This is equivalent to about 4,500 Eiffel Towers for the year.”
The report found Asia generates the greatest amounts of E-waste, followed by Europe and the Americas. Africa and Oceania produce the least.
Gray warned improper and unsafe treatment and disposal of e-waste pose significant risks to the environment and human health. She noted that low recycling rates also result in important economic losses, because high value materials – including gold, silver, copper – are not recovered.
“We estimate that the value of recoverable material contained in the 2016 e-waste is no less than $55 billion US, which is actually more than the Gross Domestic Product in many of the world’s countries,” Gray said.
The report calls for the development of proper legislation to manage e-waste. It says a growing number of countries are moving in that direction. Currently, it says 66 percent of the world population, living in 67 countries, is covered by national e-waste management laws.