Global e-waste crisis: recycling rates plummet as waste mounts

In 2022, 62 million tons of e-waste were generated, but only 22% was recycled, revealing that urgent action is needed to promote safer practices and support e-waste management.

e waste

UN agencies warned that electronic waste is mounting globally, and low recycling rates are expected to drop further. The term “e-waste” encompasses discarded devices containing a plug or battery, such as cellphones, electronic toys, TVs, microwaves, e-cigarettes, laptops, and solar panels.

According to a recent report by the United Nations’ fourth Global E-waste Monitor (GEM), in 2022 62 million tons of e-waste were generated, containing valuable metals like copper and gold worth $91 billion. Only 22% was recycled, with projections indicating a decline to 20% by 2030 due to increased consumption and inadequate infrastructure. Currently, merely 1% of the demand for valuable rare Earth metals desired by tech manufacturers is fulfilled through recycling.

Asia generates half of the world’s e-waste, with Africa having the lowest recycling and collection rates. Despite health risks, scavengers in places like Kenya earn a living from e-waste. Recycling centers exist, but experts stress the need for safer practices and support for those involved in e-waste management.

Why does it matter?

The United Nations statistics reveal a troubling rise in global electronic waste production. However, recycling rates lag. To address this, strengthening regulations, setting collection targets, and promoting responsible recycling practices globally, regionally, and locally are required to mitigate the environmental and health risks associated with the problem.