The Global E-waste Monitor is a collaborative effort between the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Sustainable Cycles (SCYCLE) Programme currently co-hosted by the United Nations University (UNU) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA).
More and more people are joining the global information society and digital economy, and are benefiting from the opportunities they offer. In parallel, higher levels of disposable incomes, urbanisation, and industrialisation in many developing countries are leading to growing amounts of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and, consequently, to greater amounts of e-waste.
A record 53.6 million metric tonnes (Mt) of e-waste – discarded products with a battery or plug such as computers and mobile phones - is reported generated worldwide in 2019, up 9.2 Mt in five years. Toxic and hazardous substances such as mercury, brominated flame-retardants (BFR) or chloroflurocarbons (CFCs) are found in many types of electronic equipment and pose severe risk to human health and the environment if not handled in an environmentally sound manner.
The new report also predicts global e-waste will reach 74.7 Mt by 2030, almost double the 2014 figure, fuelled by higher electric and electronic consumption rates, shorter lifecycles and limited repair options.
In 2019, only 17.4 per cent of e-waste was officially documented as formally collected and recycled. In 2018, the highest policy-making body of the ITU, the Plenipotentiary Conference, established a target to increase the global e-waste recycling rate to 30 per cent by 2023. The formal collection and recycling rate would have to increase at a much faster pace in order to hit that target.
The number of countries that have adopted a national e-waste policy, legislation or regulation has increased from 61 to 78 between 2014 and 2019. In many regions however, regulatory advances are slow, enforcement is low, and the collection and proper e-waste management is poor.
ITU Member States also set a target to raise the percentage of countries with an e-waste legislation to 50 per cent – or 97 countries - by 2023. ITU provides a programme dedicated to e-waste policy and regulatory development, where Member States can request ITU technical assistance and capacity building support.