StEP Launches Interactive World E-Waste Map

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  • 2013•12•16     Bonn

    World E-Waste Map Reveals National Volumes, International Flows

    By 2017, all of that year’s end-of-life refrigerators, televisions, mobile phones, computers, and other electrical and electronic products could fill a line of 40-ton trucks around three-quarters of the equator. This would represent a global jump of 33% in just five years.

    This startling forecast is based on data compiled in the new online E-Waste World Map, produced by the UNU-coordinated Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) Initiative. This unique interactive map presents annual data from 184 countries, showing the estimated amount of electrical and electronic equipment put on the market and how much resulting e-waste is generated.

    The initiative will help governments and companies to plan e-waste management. Reflecting on the launch of the map, Prof. Kazuhiko Takeuchi (Director, UNU Institute for Sustainability and Peace) said that “e-waste is a pressing global problem, and UNU is committed through its research, and also through coordinating the StEP Initiative, to provide science-based but applied recommendations to policymakers in governments and industry. And knowing and understanding the magnitude of the issue is key”.

    The map shows, for example, that almost 48.9 million metric tons of used electrical and electronic products was produced last year — an average of seven kilograms for each of the world’s 7 billion people.

    And the flood of e-waste is growing. Based on current trends, StEP experts predict that by 2017 the total annual volume will have risen by a third, to 65.4 million tons — a weight equivalent to almost 200 Empire State Buildings or 11 Great Pyramids of Giza.

    “The lack of comprehensive data has made it hard to grasp the full magnitude of the problem”, said Dr. Ruediger Kuehr of UNU-ISP’s Sustainable Cycles (SCYCLE) operating unit in Germany, which leads the StEP Initiative. “This constantly updated, map-linked database showing e-waste volume by country together with legal texts will help lead to better awareness and policymaking at the public and private levels.”

    The StEP E-Waste World Map database shows that in 2012, China and the United States topped the world’s totals in market volume of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and e-waste. In 2012, China put the highest volume of EEE on the market (11.1 million tons) followed by the USA (10 million tons).

    The world’s two biggest economies were far apart in terms of annual e-waste per person, however, with each American responsible for an average 29.8 kg of high-tech trash — almost six times higher than China’s per capita figure of 5.4 kg. For Japan the figure was 21.5 kg.

    The map also provides information on e-waste rules, regulations, policies and guidance, highlighting the huge variety of requirements and lack of consistency in tackling the e-waste issue throughout the world.

    Report offers detailed USA analysis 

    Alongside the map, a new StEP report was released analysing the generation and shipment destinations of US used electronics that are no longer residing in households. The study was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Materials Systems Laboratory and the US National Center for Electronics Recycling (NCER), and funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    Jane Nishida, Acting Assistant Administrator of the EPA Office of International and Tribal Affairs, commented that “EPA partnered with the United Nations University’s Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP) Initiative, understanding that the growing e-waste problem can only be addressed effectively when we have better information on the global flows of used electronics”.

    Despite growing global interest and concern surrounding transboundary movements of used electronics, there is a lack of coherent data on their movements. Both the StEP E-Waste World Map and the MIT/NCER study make important contributions to addressing this gap.

    For more information, see World E-Waste Map Reveals National Volumes, International Flows on the StEP Initiative website.