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UN released a report titled Global E-Waste Monitor 2014

As per the report, in the year 2014 volume of e-waste is estimated around 41.8 million metric tonnes (Megatonnes – Mt) and it is expected to rise by 21 percent to 50 million Mt in 2018.

Apr 20, 2015 15:55 IST
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United Nations (UN) on 19 April 2015 released a report titled Global E-Waste Monitor 2014. The report has been compiled by the United Nations University (UNU), the UN’s think tank. The report offers a wealth of insights into the location and composition of the world’s fast-growing e-waste problem.

As per the report, in the year 2014 volume of e-waste is estimated around 41.8 million metric tonnes (Megatonnes – Mt) and it is expected to rise by 21 percent to 50 million Mt in 2018.

Also, e-waste contained 52 billion US dollars in resources, large volumes of toxic material out of which most is not collected for recovery or treatment.

Main Highlights of the Report

• The US and China produced the most e-waste overall in 2014 at 32 percent. India came in fifth, behind the US, China, Japan and Germany.
• The top per capita producers by far are the wealthy nations of northern and western Europe, the top five being Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, and the UK.
• The lowest amount of e-waste per inhabitant was generated in Africa (1.7 kg/inhabitant). The continent generated 1.9 Mt of e-waste in total.
• Most world e-waste in 2014 was generated in Asia: 16 Mt (3.7 kg per inhabitant).
• The highest per inhabitant e-waste quantity (15.6 kg/inhabitant) was generated in Europe; the region (including Russia) generated 11.6 Mt.
• The lowest quantity of e-waste was generated in Oceania (0.6 Mt), however, per inhabitant the e-waste generated was nearly as high as Europe’s (15.2 kg/inhabitant)
• In 2014, only 7 per cent of e-waste was made up of mobile phones, calculators, personal computers, printers, and small information technology equipment
• Almost 60 per cent was a mix of large and small equipment used in homes and businesses, such as vacuum cleaners, toasters, electric shavers, video cameras, washing machines, electric stoves, mobile phones, calculators, personal computers, and lamps
• The e-waste generated in 2014 contained an estimated 16500 kilotons of iron, 1900 kilotons of copper, 300 tonnes of gold (equal to 11% of the world’s total 2013 gold production), as well as silver, aluminum, palladium plastic and other resources with a combined estimated value of 52 billion US dollar.

• Toxins in that e-waste, meanwhile, include 2.2 Mt of lead glass, 0.3 Mt of batteries, as well as mercury, cadmium, chromium and 4400 tonnes of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs).

• Health problems associated with such toxins include impaired mental development, cancer, and damage to liver and kidneys.

• In 2014, approximately 4 billion people were covered by national e-waste legislation (though not all laws cover the full range of e-waste and are not all enforced).

Comment
The global e-waste problem is escalating and it is mainly driven by the rising sales and shortening life cycles of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) EEE is essentially, any device with a battery or an electric cord.

On the one hand, e-waste constitutes a valuable urban mine, that is, it is a large potential reservoir of recyclable materials. On the other, the hazardous content of e-waste constitutes a toxic mine that must be managed with extreme care.

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