E-waste | The fastest growing waste in the world

A record 53.6 million metric tonnes (Mt) of electronic waste or e-waste was generated worldwide in 2019, up 21 percent in just five years, according to the UN’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020.

The report also predicts that global e-waste (discarded products with a battery or electrical plug) will reach 74 Mt by 2030 — almost a doubling of e-waste tonnage in just 16 years. This makes e-waste the world’s fastest-growing domestic waste stream, fuelled mainly by higher consumption rates of electric and electronic equipment, short life-cycles, and few options for repair. 

Current e-waste recycling rates

Only 17.4 per cent of 2019’s e-waste was collected and recycled. This means that gold, silver, copper, platinum, and other high-value, recoverable materials conservatively valued at $74 billion — a sum greater than the Gross Domestic Product of most countries — were mostly dumped or burned rather than being collected for treatment and reuse.

E-waste is a health and environmental hazard, containing toxic additives or hazardous substances such as mercury. Proper e-waste management can help mitigate global warming: in 2019, an estimated 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents were released into the atmosphere from discarded refrigerators and air-conditioners, contributing roughly 0.3 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. While Europe ranked first worldwide in terms of e-waste generation per capita, Oceania came second (16.1kg). 

Are solar panels the next big e-waste issue?

One big contributor to e-waste volumes is green energy. The average lifespan of a solar panel being approximately 20 years, many installations from the early 2000’s are set to reach end-of-life. The cost of recycling them is higher than landfill, but given the presence of heavy metals, such as lead and tin, if waste is managed poorly, we’re on track for another recycling crisis. As the fastest growing waste type in the world, e-waste is one of the largest environmental problems – and one of the most complex. Wanless’s national collection coverage and ability to securely remove and dispose environmentally is second to none. Whether it’s a once-off clean-out of stored electronic waste or a permanent service, Wanless can provide bins to safely store, collect and transport your businesses e-waste to be recycled, providing peace of mind that your e-waste is being handled responsibly.