The UNU-Vie Operating Unit in Bonn, Germany (SCYCLE) is conducting a number of studies to quantify e-waste and provide those responsible with solid data and recommendations on how to improve their e-waste systems.
The 2017 Global E-waste Monitor, produced and published by ITU, UNU an ISWA, highlighted the lack of reliable e-waste data at the country level. Often, merely anecdotal evidence is available on the production, management, and recycling of e-waste, and only 41 countries in the world collect internationally comparable statistics on e-waste. This project is the only global effort, with all key international stakeholders involved in the area of e-waste statistics, to help countries to produce national e-waste data. This will also help the production of internationally comparable, global e-waste data to track developments and progress over time.
The need for e-waste statistics is highlighted, by:
The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 12.5 (By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse) includes indicator 12.5.1 on ‘National recycling rate, tons of material recycled’.
WSIS Action Line C7 is on the environment and the Geneva Plan of Action specifically calls for the “environmentally safe disposal and recycling of discarded hardware and components used in ICTs”. It also call for the establishment of “monitoring systems, using ICTs, to forecast and monitor the impact of natural and man-made disasters, particularly in developing countries, LDCs and small economies.”
WTDC Resolution 66 (on ICT and climate change) which instructs the BDT “to assist developing countries in undertaking proper assessment of the size of e-waste and in initiating pilot projects to achieve environmentally sound management of e-waste through e-waste collection, dismantling, refurbishing and recycling.”
The ITU’s Connect 2020 agenda Target 3.2, which is to reduce the volume of redundant e-waste by 50% by 2020. (Currently, data are not available to track this target).
Next to the global work, national studies have been conducted in several EU countries. Based on this experience UNU-IAS is translating its own developed scientific models to applicable formats that can be used by non-academics. Further, the expertise and knowledge of UNU-IAS will be used to support better and faster understanding of the data. In addition, this project is contributing to the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership, the Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development, an international, multi-stakeholder initiative to improve the availability and quality of ICT data and indicators. The immediate objective of the Task Group has been met, by developing e-waste statistics based on internationally defined indicators that have been consulted with experts in the field. The framework and guidelines have been published in January 2015, a revisiion has been published early 2018.
The Partnership on Measuring ICT for development is aiming to create an internationally recognized framework for global statistics to evaluate the fate of electronic products and the resulting e-waste flows. This document has been gone through public consultation, and the approved version can be found here.
The central classification for e-waste are the so-called UNU-KEYS. The UNU-KEYS groups electronic products into homogeneous groups of average weight, market behaviour, and environmental relevance. UNU-KEYS has been developed as a backbone of data gathering and calculations. The international standardized Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, also known as the Harmonized System (HS) or tariff nomenclature, is globally used to classify traded products, including electronics. UNU-KEYS can be be linked to the HS codes, as well to other and relevant applicable legislation.