ITU and tech industry collaborate to tackle e-waste crisis

ITU has also developed guidelines for Circular and Sustainable Public Procurement, enabling public-sector organisations to minimise e-waste, maximise energy efficiency, extend equipment lifespan, and ensure recyclability in ICT procurement.

E-waste electronic, computer circuit cpu chip mainboard core processor electronics device.

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (e-waste) is becoming one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues. By 2030, it is predicted that the world will produce a staggering 74.7 million tonnes of e-waste annually, equivalent to about 200 Empire State Buildings. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN agency for digital technologies, is committed to assisting countries in developing and implementing e-waste regulations.

The UN Climate Conference (COP28) has brought together ITU with over 40 companies and organisations in the Green Digital Action initiative. This initiative aims to raise awareness about the role of regulation and public procurement guidelines in reducing e-waste and emissions. It also seeks to foster collaboration between governments and the tech industry, highlighting the ITU-CST initiative as a significant step towards building a circular economy for electronics globally.

ITU will collaborate with the Communications, Space, and Technology Commission (CST) of Saudi Arabia to promote effective e-waste regulation globally. Their joint project aims to assist developing countries in establishing EPR-based regulations for e-waste management. Paraguay, Rwanda, and Zambia will be the initial beneficiaries of this project.

Why does it matter?

Improving global collection and recycling rates is crucial to address material losses, such as gold, copper, and critical raw materials. Currently, only a fraction of these materials are recovered. Out of an estimated USD 57 billion worth of recoverable materials from e-waste, only USD 10 billion is retained through collection and recycling. Boosting collection and recycling rates is essential to reduce industrial pollution and dependence on constant mining.