ICTs offer great opportunities for sustainable development. At the same time, the ICT sector has an environmental impact, including through the generation of e-waste. E-waste, which refers to used, broken, or obsolete electrical and electronic equipment, such as phones, laptops, sensors, and TVs, can contain hazardous substances that may pose considerable environmental and health risks, especially if treated inadequately. As technologies change at great speed, and as access to and use of electrical and electronic equipment increases, product lifecycles become shorter and many designs do not support repair or reuse. As a result, the amount of e-waste is growing rapidly throughout the world.
The highest policy making body of the ITU, the Plenipotentiary Conference, established targets in 2018 relating to e-waste:
- By 2023 increase the global e-waste recycling rate to 30%
- By 2023 raise the percentage of countries with an e-waste legislation to 50%
ITU's Development Bureau (ITU-D) has been given a mandate 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." (WTDC Resolution 66
). To this end ITU-D is developing e-waste guidelines to help countries identify best policies. It is also carrying out an
electronic waste management project, and recently launched a new partnership to help improve global e-waste statistics.