4 June 2019: The Global E-waste Statistics Partnership launched a web portal to help tackle the global e-waste problem. The website aims to provide data and information to galvanize momentum to address the e-waste challenge and drive resource recovery activities and policies towards a circular economy.

According to the UN University (UNU), e-waste encompasses discarded equipment, such as television sets, refrigerators, laptops, phones and sensors that contain substances that pose environmental and health risks when they are improperly disposed of. The world discards approximately 50 million tonnes of e-waste annually, an amount greater than the weight of all commercial airlines ever made. When e-waste is recycled or properly handled, the e-waste industry offers an opportunity for creating millions of decent jobs, in support of SDG 8, and promoting more responsible consumption and production, in line with SDG 12.

The open source portal allows users to visualize e-waste data and statistics at global, regional and national levels, and shares information on the amount of e-waste generated in total and per capita, including an overview of the e-waste problem in different regions. An interactive map allows users to quickly view the e-waste generated by capita, the e-waste formally collected per capita and the status of legislation for a given country. Japan, for example, generated 2,139 kilotonnes of e-waste in 2016, and formally collected only 26 percent of this e-waste. On a per capita basis, each Japanese resident threw out 16.9 kilograms of e-waste, far above the Asian per capita average of 4.2 kilograms but less than the UK (24.9 kilograms per person), Australia (23.6 kilograms per person), New Zealand (20.1 kilograms per person), Canada (20.0 kilograms per person) and the US (19.4 kilograms per person).

We need to develop innovative e-waste policies, establish and monitor waste reduction targets, and forge new multi-stakeholder partnerships for action.

Many European countries are among the highest averages for e-waste generated per capita but also have high recovery rates. Sweden, for example, generated in 2016 21.5 kilograms of waste per capita, but formally collected 14.5 kilograms of waste per capita, resulting in a 69 percent e-waste collection rate. Norway generated 15 kilograms of waste per capita, and formally collected 10.6 kilograms per capita, which makes for a 73 percent e-waste collection rate.

In 2017, UNU, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) founded the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership. The Partnerships aims to improve and collect worldwide e-waste statistics and increase visibility on the importance of tracking e-waste. UNU Rector David Malone said more action is necessary to reduce the ever-increasing amount of e-waste. He expressed hope that the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership and the online portal will support needed steps, including to “develop innovative e-waste policies, establish and monitor waste reduction targets, and force new multi-stakeholder partnerships for action, including with the private sector.”

ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao emphasized the importance of “reliable and official data and statistics on e-waste” to provide a foundation for e-waste management and legislation. He emphasized that “better e-waste data will help track progress towards global ITU e-waste targets.” ISWA President Antonis Mavropoulos welcomed the portal’s creation, and said he hoped “this new initiative will further stimulate the ongoing efforts to tackle the e-waste challenge and drive resource recovery policies and activities towards a circular economy in the IT industry.”

SDG target 12.5 focuses on substantially reducing waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse. [UNU Press Release] [ITU Press Release] [Interactive Map] [Partnership Website] [UNU News Story]