International UN study: Europe shows highest e-waste quantity per inhabitant

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Elektrogeräte-Sammelbox (Foto: O. Kürth)

Bonn, Germany — The total amount e-waste generated in 2014 is estimated at 41.8 million metric tonnes (Mt). It is forecasted to increase to 50 Mt of e-waste in 2018. These are figures out of a new report on „The Golbal E-Waste Monitor 2014. Quantities, flows and resources“ released by the United Nations University.

This e-waste is comprised of 1.0 Mt of lamps, 6.3 Mt of screens, 3.0 Mt of small IT (such as mobile phones, pocket calculators, personal computers, printers, etc.), 12.8 Mt of small equipment (such as vacuum cleaners, microwaves, toasters, electric shavers, video cameras,etc.), 11.8 Mt of large equipment (such as washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, electric stoves, photovoltaic panels, etc.) and 7.0 Mt of cooling and freezing equipment (temperature exchange equipment).

Recyclable materials in e-waste are valuable secondary resoures. This „urban mine“ consists of approx. 16.5 mio. tons of Iron and Steel, 1.9 mio. tons of Copper, 1,000 tons of Silver, 300 tons of Gold and 100 tons of Palladium. Together with 8.6 mio. tons of plastics like PP, ABS, PC, PS, these materials represent a worth of €48 billion. The material value is dominated by gold, copper and plastics contents. The annual supply of toxins from e-waste is comprised of 2.2 Mt of lead glass, 0.3 Mt of batteries and 4 kilo tonnes (kt) of ozone-depleting substances (CFCs). Whether the raw materials are recycled or the toxins lead to actual harmful emissions largely depends on their collection and treatment manners.

In Europe, the total e-waste generation was 11.6 Mt in 2014. The European countries with the highest e-waste generation in absolute quantities are Germany (1.8 Mt), the United Kingdom (1.5 Mt), France (1.4 Mt) and Russia (1.2 Mt). The top three regions or countries with the highest e-waste generation in relative quantities are Norway (28.3 kg/inh.), Switzerland (26.3 kg/inh.) and Iceland (26.0 kg/inh.).

Most of the e-waste was generated in Asia: 16 Mt in 2014. This was 3.7 kg for each inhabitant. The highest per inhabitant e-waste quantity (15.6 kg/inh.) was generated in Europe. The whole region (including Russia) generated 11.6 Mt. The lowest quantity of e-waste was generated in Oceania, and was 0.6 Mt. However, the per inhabitant amount was nearly as high as Europe’s (15.2 kg/inh.). The lowest amount of e-waste per inhabitant was generated in Africa, where only 1.7 kg/inh. was generated in 2014. The whole continent generated 1.9 Mt of e-waste. The Americas generated 11.7 Mt of e-waste (7.9 Mt for North America, 1.1 Mt for Central America, and 2.7 Mt for South America), which represented 12.2 kg/inh.

In some countries, legislation exists for only one type of appliance, or the collection amount is low. Driven by these national laws, at least 6.5 Mt of e-waste was reported as formally treated by national take-back programs and schemes at the global scale (around 15.5 per cent of the e-waste generated in 2014). Through these programs, the highest quality of recycling and safe disposal of e-waste takes place.

The full report can be downloaded under unu.edu.

Source: United Nations University, IAS – SCYCLE