A new UN report about global electronic waste is out and it’s frightening. The world generated 41.8 million tonnes of eWaste in 2014, a jump of 2 million tonnes from 2013. Shockingly the USA and China alone generated 32 per cent of the total volumes of electronic trash, followed by Japan and Germany, with India at the fifth position.
India generated 1.7 million tonnes of Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment last year, making it the fifth largest electronic waste producer in the world. With less than 10 per cent of the electronic scrap being recycled in an environmentally friendly and responsible way, the situation has become worse.
In terms of per-capita, Norway stood at the first place for producing the highest amount of electronic waste, with 28.4 kilograms per citizen, followed by Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark and Britain among others. Surprisingly, one of the worst affected regions from electronic waste – Africa, with 1.7 kilograms per person was found to be the lowest per capita electronic scrap generator.
While electronic waste is said to be having an urban mine of precious and rare earth metals, it also contains a mine of several hazardous and lethal toxins which are polluting our environment. The UN report found that the world wasted nearly $52 billion worth of recyclable eWaste.
A whopping 300 tonnes of gold, equivalent to 11 per cent of the total global gold production in 2013 could have been extracted easily from the mountain of electronic waste in an environmentally friendly way. The report also concluded that irresponsibly dumped eWaste exposed the environment and mankind to 2.2 million tonnes of hazardous lead compounds along with chromium, mercury and cadmium. A mammoth 4,400 tonnes of CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) were released in the environment, a major pollutant, responsible for Ozone depletion.
The global population is poised to generate more than 50 million tonnes of electronic waste annually by 2018 and the rapid rate of electronic waste generation is going to rise much faster than before.
Electronic scrap has become one of the biggest environmental and health challenges for the world in recent times. An infrastructure capable of proper disposal, collection and recycling of eWaste in an environmentally friendly way is required to reduce its toxic hazards and increase resource sustainability.