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One of the lessons that the current coronavirus pandemic has taught us is that we rely on electronic devices more than ever, especially during prolonged periods of self-isolation. Smartphones, laptops, televisions, e-readers, refrigerators, air conditioners have all been extremely helpful.
The problem is what happens to them once they are replaced by newer models. The answer: millions of devices end up in the trash every year, adding to the serious problem of e-waste. Last year alone, a staggering 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste was generated worldwide, 21% more than just five years ago, according to a United Nations report.
Worse still: the amount of products disposed of with a battery or plug will reach 74 million tons by the end of the decade, which means that in just 16 years the rate of electronic waste will have doubled.
"This makes e-waste the fastest growing household waste stream in the world, driven primarily by higher consumption rates of electrical and electronic equipment, short life cycles and few repair options," notes the Global E report. -waste Monitor 2020, affiliated to the UN.
“This means that gold, silver, copper, platinum, and other high-value recoverable materials conservatively valued at $ 57 billion, a sum greater than the Gross Domestic Product of most countries, were at their best. most dumped or burned instead of being collected for treatment and reuse, "he adds.
Worse yet: less than a fifth, or just 17%, of e-waste was collected and recycled last year, leaving the rest unrecycled. Needless to say, it is a huge concern as e-waste is a particularly toxic form of waste, posing a threat to both the environment and people's health.
China led the way last year in e-waste by producing just over 10 million metric tons, followed by the United States with almost 7 million tons and India in third place with 3.2 million tons. These three nations accounted for nearly 38% of all global e-waste last year.
In terms of continents, Asia accounted for a quarter of all e-waste generated globally, followed by America with just over 13 million tons and Europe with 12 million tons.
"In perspective, last year's e-waste weighed substantially more than all the adults in Europe, or up to 350 cruise ships the size of the Queen Mary 2, enough to form a 125 km long line," the report notes.
Problematically, even when e-waste is recycled, in countries like Thailand, it is often done in a way that presents itself as health and environmental hazards.
"The most worrying thing is not only the amount of e-waste that is accumulating, but also the fact that recycling technologies are not keeping up with the increasing amount," says Vanessa Forti, an expert at the United Nations University. who was one of the main authors of the report.
"That is the key message: recycling needs to improve," he closed.