The amount of electronic and electrical equipment waste (e-waste) generated each year continues to grow rapidly. Used, broken, or obsolete electronic gadgets contain substances that pose considerable environmental and health risks, especially when disposed of in unregulated dumps. Yet most of the production, management, and recycling of e-waste is not properly documented, nor is it treated through appropriate recycling chains and methods.
An important step towards tackling this e-waste challenge is to track and measure the amount of e-waste being produced. Better data will also help to minimise the generation of e-waste, prevent illegal dumping, and encourage reuse and recycling. Promoting environmentally friendly disposal of e-waste will also contribute to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals — in particular, Goal 12: “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”.
A global target to “reduce the volume of redundant e-waste by 50% by 2020” was set by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2014. Despite this recognition of the importance of monitoring e-waste, however, only about 40 countries in the world currently collect internationally comparable statistics on e-waste.
To address this problem, the United Nations University (through the Sustainable Cycles (SCYCLE) programme, hosted by the UNU Vice-Rectorate in Europe) ITU, and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) have formed the Global e-Waste Statistics Partnership. The main objectives of this partnership are to build capacity for countries to produce reliable and comparable e-waste statistics; collect data from countries; and build a global e-waste database to track developments over time.
In November 2017, the partnership will publish the Global e-Waste Monitor, a comprehensive report that will provide a review of the e-waste challenge, as well as 2017 estimates for global e-waste quantities.
For more information on the partnership, see the news story on the website of the UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security.