Increasing e-waste poses huge environmental risk, causes economic losses: UN report

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-13 23:46:33|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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GENEVA, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) -- Fast increasing global electronic waste (e-waste) is posing a significant and growing risk to the environment and human health, while their low recycling rates can have a negative economic impact too, according to a report released on Wednesday by UN agencies.

In 2016, 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste were generated, about 8 percent rise from 2014, but only about 20 percent of all e-waste was recycled, according to the Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, jointly released by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations University (UNU) and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA).

As experts foresee a further 17 percent increase of e-waste by 2021, based on the level of 2016, the report warns of a significant and growing risk to the environment and human health resulted from e-waste and its improper and unsafe treatment and disposal through burning or in dumpsites.

"E-waste management is an urgent issue in today's digitally dependent world, where use of electronic devices is ever increasing - and is included in ITU's Connect 2020 Agenda targets," said ITU Secretary-General Zhao Houlin.

Numbers from the report show that a growing number of countries have adopted e-waste legislation. Currently 66 percent of the world population, living in 67 countries and regions, is covered by national e-waste management laws, a significant increase from 44 percent in 2014.

Meanwhile, low recycling rates of e-waste also bring a negative economic impact, as e-waste contains rich deposits of gold, silver, copper, platinum, palladium and other high value recoverable materials. The report estimates that the value of recoverable materials contained in e-waste generated during 2016 stood at about 55 billion U.S. dollars, more than the GDP of most countries in the world.

Earlier this year, ITU, UNU and ISWA joined forces and launched the "Global Partnership for E-waste Statistics," aiming to help countries produce e-waste statistics and to build a global e-waste database to track developments over time.

"The Global E-waste Monitor serves as a valuable resource for governments developing their necessary management strategies, standards and policies to reduce the adverse health and environmental effects of e-waste," said Zhao Houlin.