A year’s worth of electronic waste could fill a line of trucks around the Earth!

In 2022, no less than 62 million tons of electronic waste will be generated worldwide. Enough to fill 1.55 million 40-ton trucks. Enough to allow them to form a continuous line surrounding the Earth at its equator! And, above all, 82% more than in 2010. These are the ignominious figures revealed today by the Global e-waste monitor Compiled by researchers from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (Unitar) and theInternational Telecommunication UnionInternational Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Very little electronic waste is recycled

What is perhaps even more worrying is that less than a quarter of this waste (exactly 22.3%, but the figure continues to rise to 42.8% in Europe) was collected and recycled. As if the world has wasted $62 billion of precious resources. And therefore we run the risk of a significant increase in pollution. Because these e-wastes contain toxic additives and dangerous substances in themselves. Mercury, for example, known to damage our health brainbrain.

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“No more than 1% of rare earth demand is met by recycling electronic waste. This can’t continue. This new report represents an immediate call for greater investment in infrastructure development, greater promotion of repair and reuse, capacity building and measures to end illegal shipments of e-waste.comments Kees Baldé, researcher at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and lead author of the article. Global e-waste monitor.

The increasing consumption of electronic devices with increasingly short life cycles, limited repair options and inadequate waste management infrastructure leads researchers to estimate that the amount of e-waste generated by 2030 is still expected to increase much further. Up to 82 million tons. Researchers project that the proportion of recycled waste will drop to around 20% at that time.

Details of the quantities of e-waste generated by major regions of the world and the proportion that is recycled according to the latest Global E-waste Monitor. © World Electronic Waste Monitor

By recycling electronic waste, we have a lot to gain from it.

However the Global e-waste monitor It claims that if recycling rates were increased to 60%, the benefits of collection would exceed its costs by more than $38 billion! Not to mention the profits in subjectsubject Rare resources that will be critical for future technologies. The production of renewable energy or mobility, for example.

Are electrical devices specifically made to last less than before? The answer with Melissa Lepoureau in Science ou Fiction. © Futura

Electronic waste has increased by 21% in 5 years!

old phones, computerscomputers, batteries, washing machines… Each human produced 7.3 kilos of electronic waste in 2019, according to a United Nations report. Poorly collected and poorly recycled waste that most frequently contaminates the environment. Whose fault is it? Can we stop the trend?

Article from Celine De LuzarcheCeline De Luzarche published on 07/14/2020

Each inhabitant of the Planet produces 7.3 kilos of electrical and electronic waste per year. © UNU-Unitar Scycle, Yassyn Sidki

Humanity produced 53.6 million tons of electronic waste in 2019, the equivalent of 237 cruise ships, such as theHarmony of the Sea, Full to the brim. This is the compelling observation contained in the latest report by the International Telecommunication Union, the United Nations University, Unitar and theInternational Solid Waste Association. The mountain of old phones, used devices and other batteries has grown by 21% in five years and could reach 74 million tons in 2030, warns the organization. Europe tops the ranking, with 16.2 kgkg of waste per year and per capita, followed by Oceania (16.1 kilos) and America (13.3 kilos).

Every year, an additional 2.5 million tons of old electrical and electronic equipment are added to the waste mountain. © UNU/Unitar Scycle Nienke Haccoû/CD adaptation

There are more and more electrical appliances that last less

If the massmass of WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipmentwaste electrical and electronic equipment) is increasing rapidly for three main reasons: high consumption of electronic products, increasingly rapid renewal and a low repair rate. According to Ademe, the number of smartphones sold each year around the world has increased 12-fold in the last 10 years. In France, a household has an average of 99 devices! And only 38% repair them when they break, according to an Ifop study carried out for the Ministry of Ecological and Inclusive Transition.

Between 40 and 50% of major appliances are replaced while they are still in working or repairable condition. © UNU/Ciclo Unitar, Yassyn Sidki

Electronic waste: such a big waste

Of the 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste produced in 2019, only 9.3 million, or 17.4%, are collected and recycled. Fortunately, the figure is higher in Europe (42.5% of recyclingrecycling) but, in developing countries, where there is no regulatory system, the vast majority of used devices are incinerated, buried or abandoned in landfills. In Africa, the collection and recycling rate does not exceed… 0.9%. A huge waste when we know that phones, computers, cameras, batteries, capacitorscapacitors or batteries contain up to 69 elements, recalls the report, including railsrails precious (gold, moneymoney, platinumplatinum), critical materials (tintin, zinczinc, coppercopper) and other recoverable metals (ironiron, aluminumaluminum). This means that 25 million tons of raw materials, valued at $57 billion, are vanishing or rusting in the fields.

Between 7 and 20% of electronic waste is exported to other countries. © UNU/Ciclo Unitar, Yassyn Sidki

Illegal international trafficking

The unexpected gain does not go unnoticed by everyone. Electronic waste is also the subject of intense transnational trafficking. Since then Basel ConventionBasel Convention which came into force in 1992, in principle it is prohibited to export dangerous residuesdangerous residues to third countries. But this does not apply everywhere (the United States, for example, is not a signatory) and the report estimates that between 7 and 20% of WEEE is sent illegally or as second-hand products to less developed countries. In Africa and Asia, thousands of used objects are dismantled and burned to recover the copper or its components. A job that is often done by children, exposed to the toxic fumes given off by plastic.

Mercury, chemical agents, plastic, greenhouse gases… Electronic waste contains many toxic substances. © UNU/Ciclo Unitar, Yassyn Sidki

Electronic waste: a slow poison

E-waste causes many other health harms. Heavy metals and other toxic substances pollute rivers and contaminate the entire food chainfood chain. More than 50 tons of mercurymercury and 71,000 tons of BFRs (brominated flame retardants) end up in nature each year, the report estimates. The equivalent of 98 million tons of carbon dioxidecarbon dioxide of gasgas Refrigerants are also released into theatmosphereatmospherethe equivalent of transmissionstransmissions annualannual from Belgium.

10 figures that prove the world will be overwhelmed by waste

Fortunately, there is good news. After China, Malaysia and India closed their doorsdoors to imports of plastic waste. We are also seeing a slowdown in the renewal cycle for certain products. In Europe, consumers keep their smartphone for an average of 26.2 months in 2018, compared to 23.4 months in 2016, notes the Kantar Worldpanel institute. Unfortunately, this is not due to an ecological conviction, but rather to its increasingly high price.

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