According to the International Communications Union, the amount of e-waste generated in 2016 was enough to build almost 4,500 Eiffel towers: by weight it totaled 44.7 million metric tons of old computers, televisions, fridges, mobile phones, and other appliances.
Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), also known as e-waste, is the fastest growing waste stream in the world. It is expected to reach 52.2 million metric tons by 2021, enough to build another 1000 Eiffel towers.
The proper disposal and recycling of the increasing amount of e-waste needs to be addressed, not only because of the environmental and health challenges, but also because of the economic opportunities.
E-waste contains high value resources, precious metals such as gold, silver, palladium and platinum, as well as high value plastics which make resource recovery and recycling activities attractive from an economic and business perspective.
The total value of all raw materials present in e-waste is estimated at approximately 55 billion Euros in 2016, which is more than the Gross Domestic Product of most countries in the world. Based on e-waste recycling value chains, it is important to construct environmentally friendly societies and to achieve economic sustainability.
UNIDO works with governments and with the private sector to encourage industry to ‘design for recycling’. Promoting sustainable solutions that eliminates the concept of waste and transforms it into an opportunity, into resources for sustainable production.
For WEEE this would mean collecting, dismantling, processing and recycling its components in order to close its life cycle loop by sending the materials back into the industrial value chain. Engaging manufacturers in the repurposing of materials – reducing waste and integrating ‘end-of- life’ planning at design stage is also important.