E-waste is the fasting growing waste stream in the world. In comparison to other consumer goods, it is growing at an alarming rate due to rapid product innovation and built-in obsolescence. Rapid advances in technology in recent years have produced a multitude of products that we depend on. Increasingly, it’s clear that they come with a cost, both to human health and the environment. Here are some of the problems:
To keep pace with growing demand, the scale and speed of resource exploitation for scarce raw materials has accelerated. Many key materials are in danger of running out, whilst mining and extraction on a vast scale is causing unprecedented environmental degradation.
E-waste contains thousands of toxic materials, including heavy metals and harmful persistent chemicals. These can be damaging to both human health and the environment. It’s also an impediment to recycling.
Explosive sales in consumer electronics and shorter product life-spans means more waste as products are being dumped at an alarming rate. Flatter TV screens, faster laptops and newer multi-functional mobile phones result in technology up-grades long before existing products are worn out. This design for disposability has led to a throwaway consumer culture that is supremely wasteful and environmentally destructive.
The development of appropriate re-use, recycling and recovery systems is not keeping pace with the sheer quantity of material produced. Huge volumes of usable, workable products are simply discarded or just partially recycled. And, even waste classified as recycled is being illegally exported from Europe to Asia and Africa.Did you know?
Did you know?
- The UN estimates that some 20 to 50 million tonnes of e-waste are generated in the world each year
- Global quantities of e-waste are predicted to reach at least 53 million tonnes by 2012.
- Less than 10% of global e-waste is recycled.
- In the European Union (EU27) alone, around 8.7 million tonnes of e-waste is thrown away each year, only 2.1 million tonnes or 25% is collected and treated. The remaining 6.6 million tonnes, or 75%, is hidden and unaccounted for.
- This is predicted to reach about 12.3 million tonnes by 2020.
- The UK has the lowest recycling rate in Western Europe.
- It is estimated that in the UK we throw away around 1.8 million tonnes of e-waste every year. That works out at between 23 and 29kgs of e-waste per head.This compares with a Western European average of between 14 and 24 kgs.