Published: Thu, Jan 24, 2019
Type: Publication

Rapid innovation and lowering costs have dramatically increased access to electronic products and digital technology, with many benefits. This has led to an increase in the use of electronic devices and equipment. The unintended consequence of this is a ballooning of electronic and electrical waste: e-waste.

It is difficult to gauge how many electrical goods are produced annually, but just taking account of devices connected to the internet, they now number many more than humans. By 2020, this is projected to be between 25-50 billion, reflecting plummeting costs and rising demand.

E-waste is now the fastest-growing waste stream in the world. Some forms of it have been growing exponentially. The UN has called it a tsunami of e-waste. It is estimated this waste stream reached 48.5 million tonnes in 2018. This figure is expected to double if nothing changes. Globally, society only deals with 20% of e-waste appropriately and there is little data on what happens to the rest, which for the most part ends up in landfill, or is disposed of by informal workers in poor conditions.

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