Recent research findings published by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have revealed that global e-waste is growing at an alarming rate. Many people worldwide use electronic gadgets such as smartphones, laptops and TVs, but few countries have an elaborate plan for disposing or recycling the waste generated. Today, approximately 5.16 billion people use mobile phones globally. Interestingly, most people only use a new phone for 2.5 years.

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According to the ITU report, a record 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste was discarded in 2019 alone. This is about 9.2 metric tons higher than just five years ago. Due to these figures, the organization is concerned over the improper disposal of e-waste. Some of the compounds in the waste are potential hazards to human health. Most of the e-waste was found to contain mercury, brominated flame-retardants and chlorofluorocarbons.

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According to the report, only 17.4% of e-waste is recycled annually, leaving about 83% of electronic waste to end up in landfills and bodies of water. According to Belmont Trading, many marine species are dying due to the increase in electronic waste in the oceans.

“We know we’re losing biodiversity at a rate that is 1,000 times faster than we should be,” said Stuart Pimm, a conservation biologist at Duke University.

In 2018, ITU set a target of recycling about 30% of e-waste produce annually by 2023. The aim is to increase the formal collection and recycling of e-waste to reduce the volume of waste going into oceans and landfills. The organization is now lobbying member states to adopt sustainable methods of e-waste disposal. In 2019, 78 countries are reported to have adopted an official e-waste policy. If more countries can do the same, global e-waste can decline in the near future.

We can all contribute to the efforts toward a world with little e-waste. Before you dispose of that phone, laptop, TV or kitchen appliance, think about other ways you could use it, donate it or recycle it.

+ ITU

Image via Willfried Wende