Each year, International E-Waste Day is held on 14 October, an opportunity to reflect on the impacts of e-waste and the necessary actions to enhance circularity for e-products. International E-Waste Day was developed in 2018 by the WEEE Forum to raise the public profile of waste electrical and electronic equipment recycling and encourage consumers to recycle.
According to the United Nations, in 2021 each person on the planet will produce on average 7.6 kg of e-waste, meaning that a massive 57.4 million tons will be generated worldwide. Only 17.4% of this electronic waste, containing a mixture of harmful substances and precious materials, will be recorded as being properly collected, treated and recycled. Many initiatives are undertaken to tackle this growing concern, but none of them can be fully effective without the active role and correct education of consumers.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) also indicates that e-waste is one of the largest and most complex waste streams in the world. According to the Global E-waste Monitor 2020, the world generated 53.6 Mt of e-waste in 2019, only 9.3 Mt (17%) of which was recorded as being collected and recycled. E-waste contains valuable materials, as well as hazardous toxins, which make the efficient material recovery and safe recycling of e-waste extremely important for economic value as well as environmental and human health. The discrepancy in the amount of e-waste produced and the amount of e-waste that is properly recycled reflects an urgent need for all stakeholders including the youth to address this issue.
2022 Theme: Recycle it all, no matter how small!
In 2022, the focus of International E-Waste Day will be on small items of e-waste, under the slogan ‘Recycle it all, no matter how small!’. According to the UN, the world generated over 22 million tonnes of small e-waste in 2019, accounting for around 40% of all e-waste produced globally.
Cellphones, electric toothbrushes, toasters, cameras and other small electronic products are often disposed of incorrectly due to their small size and the lack of information. Globally, around 8% of all e-waste is thrown in waste bins, and a large part of it is small items. In that case, the raw materials cannot be recovered, as household waste is landfilled or incinerated. In many cases, people also forget to dispose of their small appliances, keeping them in cupboards or basements. It is estimated that an average European person keeps up to 5kg of unused e-devices at home. Therefore, it is essential to develop simple and convenient disposal systems for small e-waste.
Addressing the Environmental Risks of E-Waste from Geneva
E-waste can be toxic, is not biodegradable and accumulates in the environment, in the soil, air, water and living things. A 2019 joint report “A New Circular Vision for Electronics – Time for a Global Reboot” calls for a new vision for e-waste based on the circular economy concept, whereby a regenerative system can minimize waste and energy leakage. The report supports the work of the E-waste Coalition, which includes the ILO, ITU, UNEP, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNU and Secretariats of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions. The organisations and many more in Geneva are actively working to reduce the environmental and health risks of e-waste. Learn more in our thematic page below.
Activities in Geneva
The paper focuses on complimentary, novel solutions and concepts to drive e-waste collection rates that are in line with existing regulatory principles.
Transboundary movement of Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) vs second-hand Electric and Electronic Equipment (EEE)
Webinar | 14 October 2022, 10.00 – 12.00 CEST | Basel Convention & Slovak Environment Agency
The Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions is launching a participatory campaign in anticipation of the entry into force of the E-waste Amendments in 2025. The public is invited to share stories about personal electronic devices by 14 November 2022.
The UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the Sustainable Cycle programme are launching a 2h-course to raise awareness of the scale and the impact of e-waste.
- International E-waste Day: Of ~16 Billion Mobile Phones Possessed Worldwide, ~5.3 Billion will Become Waste in 2022 | WEEE Forum | October 2022
- International E-waste Day 2022 marks a new deal on e-waste under the Basel Convention | BRS Secretariat | October 2022
- Thought paper: global and complementary actions for electronics extended producer responsibility | WEEE Forum | October 2022
- Global and complementary actions for electronics extended producer responsibility | ITU | October 2022