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Humans left behind a record amount of e-waste in 2019

Humans left behind a record amount of e-waste in 2019

Electronic waste grew 21 percent in five years

2019 set a record for the amount of e-waste ever generated worldwide: 53.6 million metric tons of discarded phones, computers, appliances, and other gadgets. That’s more than the combined weight of all the adults in Europe. It’s also a 21 percent increase since 2014, according to a new international report.

Just 17 percent of that waste was officially recycled, the report finds. The vast majority of it was either sent to a landfill, incinerated, or vanished somewhere into the bureaucratic ether when officials lost track of it. The report was meant to document global progress on getting a handle on e-waste, authors of the paper say. Instead, they found that the world has backtracked.

They anticipate that the problem will only get worse. The amount of e-waste is expected to almost double from 2014 levels by 2030. That’s a danger to people’s health, according to the report, because the trash can poison people handling it and the surrounding environment.

“We are at the start of a kind of explosion due to increased electrification we see everywhere,” says Ruediger Kuehr, one of the authors of the report and director of the Sustainable Cycles Programme at the United Nations University. “It starts with toys, if you look at what is happening around Christmas, everything comes with a battery or plug. And it goes on with the mobile phones, with TV sets, and computers,” he says.

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