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Electronic waste increasing at concerning rate: Report

A new report revealed that electronic waste is rising five times faster than documented e-waste recycling

FILE - In this photo taken Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, workers unload and sort through a container full of electronic waste that was collected from a Nairobi slum and brought in for recycling, at the East African Compliant Recycling facility in Machakos, near Nairobi, in Kenya.
FILE - In this photo taken Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, workers unload and sort through a container full of electronic waste that was collected from a Nairobi slum and brought in for recycling, at the East African Compliant Recycling facility in Machakos, near Nairobi, in Kenya. (AP)

In a world where electronic devices have become an indispensable part of daily life, increasing electronic waste (or e-waste) is a significant problem globally. Now, a new report has revealed that e-waste is rising five times faster than documented e-waste recycling.

The new report predicts a decrease in the documented collection and recycling rate of e-waste from 22.3% in 2022 to 20% by 2030. This is because of the widening difference in recycling efforts relative to the massive growth of e-waste generation across the world, the ‘Global E-Waste Monitor 2024' report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and United Nations Institute for Training and Research revealed earlier this week.

Also read: Explained: Why addressing invisible e-waste is important

Some of the reasons for the increasing gap include technological progress, higher consumption, limited repair options, shorter product life cycles, society's growing electronification, design shortcomings, and inadequate e-waste management infrastructure, the ITU’s press release explained.

Notably, a record 62 million tonnes of e-waste was generated in 2022, which is an 82% increase since 2010. Currently, the generation of e-waste is increasing by 2.6 million tonnes annually, which is on track to reach 82 million tonnes by 2030, a 33% increase since 2022, the report warned.

Adding to the concerns, less than a quarter (22.3%) of e-waste was documented as having been properly collected and recycled in 2022. This means $62 billion worth of recoverable natural resources were unaccounted for, which further increased pollution risks.

Moreover, the report revealed that worldwide, 81 countries (42% of all countries) have adopted e-waste policies. This falls short of the ITU target of 50% (97 countries) by 2023.

The report further stated that the enforcement of e-waste policy, legislation, and regulation “remains a genuine challenge globally, and the stagnation of the global e-waste collection and recycling rate is likely exacerbated by the fact that only 46 countries have collection rate targets and only 36 have recycling rate targets."

In the statement, lead author Kees Baldé said business as usual cannot continue. “This new report represents an immediate call for greater investment in infrastructure development, more promotion of repair and reuse, capacity building, and measures to stop illegal e-waste shipments. And the investment would pay for itself in spades.”

The report added that if countries increase the e-waste collection and recycling rates to 60% by 2030, the benefits would exceed costs by more than $38 billion.

Also read: In the green takes new meaning for corporates

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