Electronic waste or e-waste is the term given to electronic devices that are no longer being used. Many things can be recycled, including cell phones, computers, and video game consoles. It is important to dispose of these products properly because it will reduce their impact on the environment.
E-waste is a difficult problem to solve. The fact that we are using more and more electronics can be an environmental issue as many of the devices reach their end-of-life and enter landfills, or worse, they’re built to be thrown out every few years.
Recycling is a major issue as well as it is difficult to track all the electronic waste that enters the market, so it’s hard to know where and how much to recycle.
E-waste statistics show us that we need to take care of our environment by slowing down the consumption of electronic goods and recycling every time we want an upgrade.
Take a look at the numbers to find out just how serious the situation is regarding e-waste.
General Electronic Waste Statistics
1. There are six general e-waste categories.
Electronic waste discarded items and materials are classified into six categories, even though there are 54 electronic equipment categories in total.
Based on characteristics and management practices, they are divided into the following groups:
- Screens and Monitors
- Temperature Exchange Equipment
- Small Equipment
- Large Equipment
- Small IT electronic equipment
2. In 2009, there were a total of 2.37 million short tons of various electronic devices.
According to this report, more than a decade ago, the total amount of discarded computers, mice, keyboards, TVs, cell phones, scanners, fax machines, and printers amounted to 2.37 million short tons.
Improper care, trash, and recycling are the main causes of this surmountable number which is a very serious issue for the environment.
3. E-waste consists of only 2% of the total landfill trash in the US.
Even though only 2% of the total landfill trash in the US is attributed to e-waste, unfortunately, it’s also the biggest contributor to toxic waste.
Namely, 70% of the total toxic waste is attributed to e-waste, regardless of the low landfill trash percentage.
4. The global e-waste output weighed as much as 350 cruise ships.
The world is full of waste. Whether it’s your leftover takeout, that empty bag of chips, or the piece of paper you used to write a note to yourself and then never read again, there’s no shortage of trash out there.
And that’s even more true in the digital world, where we don’t even have to REACH for something to throw away—we just click “delete,” and it’s gone.
But what happens when we “delete” things we can actually hold on to? You know: those old phones, laptops, printers, and routers? And what happens when we throw those away so casually?
For most people, the answer is simple: they end up in the trash. But that means our old electronics are taking up space in landfills—and those old electronics often contain toxic materials like mercury, lead, and arsenic.
The world disposed of a record 53.6 million tonnes of electronic waste in 2019. Now, this is an astonishing number, per the latest e-waste statistics.
This volume of the world’s total electronic waste weighs the same as 350 cruise ships combined. Furthermore, if the output is laid down in a line, it would become 77 miles long.
5. In 2019, America produced 6.92 million tons of electronic waste.
With 6.92 million tons of e-waste, the US is among the world’s biggest contributors to electronic waste.
Analyzing this amount to the population in America, it amounts to 46 lbs of e-waste per person.
6. The GEF invested $1 million in Ethiopia for e-waste management.
The United Nations University received funds for the assessment of electronic waste in Ethiopia.
According to this report, the Global Environment Facility financed a project that would evaluate and strengthen the capacity for e-waste management in Ethiopia.
This marked the first investment by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
7. Approximately 30-40 million PCs will be discontinued every year.
(Environmental Protection Agency)
The EPA – Environmental Protection Agency – issued a report detailing that close to 40 million PCs will become redundant by the end of each year.
This is a staggering amount of computers that are seeing the end of life. Contrastingly, about 5 million TVs are also retracted from use per year.
8. Less than 20% of the total electronics dumped are being recycled.
There are around 300 to 400 million electronic products that are being dumped per year in the United States. What’s interesting is the fact that only 20%, or 2 in 10 electronic items, are actually thrown back into circulation via recycling.
9. Exposure to improper e-waste disposal may damage children’s health.
A number of studies have determined that an increased exposure to areas where improper care is taken for the disposal of electronic waste, leads to damaged health in infants and children.
Namely, according to this data, female infants and children had problems with olfactory memory, DNA damage, loss of hearing, rapid onset of blood coagulation, and cardiovascular regulatory changes.
In male infants and children, there were similar problems such as DNA damage, fasting blood glucose levels, effects on the liver function, and male reproductive disorders.
Global E-Waste Statistics
10. Roughly 80% of all e-waste in America is being exported to Asia.
Due to low working conditions and environmental standards, the United States ships lots of e-waste material to India, China, and Kenya.
Approximately 80% of all electronic waste in the US, which is a very large amount of e-waste, is being shipped and exported in these countries where processing e-waste is much more profitable than doing it on US soil.
11. Global electronic waste is expected to reach 74 Mt by 2030.
A new report sheds light on the seriousness of the situation regarding electronic waste. Currently, global e-waste levels have reached 53.6 million Mt, and judging by the latest reports, this number will increase to 74 million megatonnes, or roughly see a 25% percent increase.
Electronic equipment, few repair options, and higher consumption rates are the main culprits of the increase of e-waste on a global level.
12. Only 17.4% of the world’s electronic waste is recycled
Only about a fifth of the world’s e-waste is recycled. That’s right: Just 17.4% of the world’s e-waste is actually recycled. That’s pretty rough, considering that e-waste has been growing by 4-5% every year.
The rest of it ends up in landfills or is burned, which can release toxic chemicals into our air and water, harming the environment and even causing sickness in humans.
13. In 2019, Asia generated the largest amounts of electronic waste in the world.
With 24.9 million megatonnes of e-waste, Asia takes first spot in generating the largest amounts. Americans generated roughly two times less, or 13.1 megatonnes to be precise, while Europe is not far behind, having produced 12 million.
Africa and Oceania are on the other end of the spectrum, with their fair share of the spoils, producing 2.9 and 0.7 Mt, respectively.
14. China is the world’s largest producer of electronic waste.
The world’s largest producer of electronic waste has to be China. Being the “world’s factory”, China produces more electronic waste than any other country in the world. It generates more than 10 million metric tons of e-waste every year.
This may sound bad until you consider China recycles so much that it’s also the world’s largest producer of raw materials like copper, aluminum, and zinc. It’s also a leader in green tech, like solar panels and wind turbines.
15. Norway is the highest e-waste generating country in Europe.
(Geneva Environment Network)
When it comes to electronic waste production and disposal, Norway tops the list in Europe. With 28.5 Mt, it’s also one of the largest e-waste producers in the world.
The UK and Denmark are second and third, with 24.9 and 24.8 Mt, respectively. It’s quite surprising to note that the Netherlands, one of the cleanest and most environmentally-friendly countries in the world, is close behind the United Kingdom and Denmark, with 23.9 Mt generated e-waste.
16. Niger is the number one country in the world that produces the least amount of e-waste.
(Geneva Environment Network)
On the other end of the spectrum, with only 0.4 Mt generated e-waste, Niger is a prime example for the rest of the world.
Ethiopia follows close by with 0.5 Mt, and it’s safe to say the investment by the GEF has reaped the rewards.
Afghanistan, Uganda, and Nepal are next in line of least e-waste generating countries, with 0.6, 0.6, and 0.8 Mt, respectively.
17. Europe leads the world in recycling numbers, with a reported 35% of e-waste being recycled per year.
(Geneva Environment Network)
According to this report, European countries are recycling the most electronic waste in the world.
The global average recycling percentage is 20, while the other 80% are undocumented. It’s a positive sign for the EU as 35% is well above the global average.
18. 10.36 billion mobile connections are present currently.
This is an astonishing number, to say the least. The number of mobile connections far exceeds the global population number of 7.84 billion.
Judging by the latest cellular data numbers, there are approximately 10.36 billion connections. However, this does not mean that every individual on this planet owns a phone or multiple ones for that matter.
Estimates suggest that about 5.26 billion people currently own a phone and are connected to the internet.
19. 71% of the world’s population is administered by national electronic waste policies.
According to this report, 7 in 10 people are governed by national policies regarding the disposal of e-waste.
With numerous e-waste materials improperly handled, this percentage is rather low. In reality, every individual needs to adhere to national policies, especially when our environment’s safety is in question.
20. 78 countries have adopted various policies regarding e-waste.
Even though the percentage of people not being governed by e-waste policies is high, it’s good news to hear that more and more countries are continuing to adopt national policies.
Namely, the latest data suggests that 78 countries in total have adopted electronic waste policies to protect and safeguard the environment and preserve natural resources.
The Future of Electronic Waste
21. Recycling 1 million cell phones would reduce gas emissions.
Less than 20% of all cell phones sold and used in the US are being recycled every year. According to experts, if 1 million cell phones are being recycled, that would positively shift the environment.
Namely, experts believe that this scenario may actually reduce gas emissions to the tune of roughly 1,368 cars being taken out of roads each year.
22. 3,500 homes could be charged by recycling 1 million laptops per year.
Similar to the estimations about cell phones, if people recycled 1 million laptops per year, they could save energy equal to the electricity that 3,500 homes consume per year.
This, alongside wind turbine installations, could heavily ease the usage of electricity systems and power grids.
23. This year, in 2022, we’ll likely see a global electronic waste generation of 59.4 Mt.
Increased availability of various electronic devices, alongside a heavy rise in spending power, has also fueled the generation of electronic waste over the past few decades.
What’s been an unfortunate steady increase over the past 16 years looks set to continue this year, with experts predicting a rise of 2 million Mt of electronic waste.
24. 65.3 million Mt of e-waste is expected to be produced by 2025.
Even though experts thought that e-waste would decrease in the coming years, recent reports suggest otherwise.
The growing and worrying trend of constant buying and throwing away of electronic devices is going to continue, marauding through the next three years.
By 2025, the global amount of electronic waste is expected to reach a terrifying 65.3 million Mt.
25. By 2030, the worldwide annual electronic waste generation could increase by a whopping 30%.
E-waste is, throughout the world, the fastest-growing waste stream. Researchers believe this trend will continue to increase as people aren’t becoming aware fast enough to stop it or at least slow down the process of generating electronic waste.
By 2030, we could see as much as 74.7 million Mt globally, which means that it will be an increase of about 30% compared to 2019.
26. Workers may be exposed to more than 1,000 harmful substances.
Exposure to toxic materials can have long-lasting effects, in addition to immediate reactions and side effects.
Workers who engage in extraction and recovering valuables such as gold and copper are at an increased risk. Namely, those who work with these valuables may experience exposure to substances like nickel, mercury, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and brominated flame retardants.
27. 1.5 tons of water is required for one computer and monitor to be manufactured.
Electronic items are considered hazardous materials due to the complexity of the products’ substances. Most notable elements include beryllium, brominated flame retardants, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel, and zinc.
However, to create one computer and one monitor, the manufacturer will need to use 1.5 tons of water, 48 lbs of chemicals, and 530 lbs of fossil fuel.
28. Estimates suggest 7-20% of e-waste to be exported.
Globally, first-world countries export a vast amount of e-waste as second-hand products. Only 8% of all electronic waste in high-income countries is actually disposed of into waste bins.
However, it’s important to note that this type of export is highly illegal or is masked as scrap metal or items for reusing.
29. 82.6% of the global e-waste is undocumented.
It appears that countries across the globe aren’t exactly apt when it comes to picking up and recycling.
Namely, 17.4% of the global e-waste is properly documented and sent for recycling. However, the vast majority, or 82.6% is left undocumented, meaning it’s not collected for recycling.
This is a huge amount of e-waste, or approximately 44.3 Mt.
Much electronic waste ends up in landfills where it can leak toxic chemicals and heavy metals into the ground. The emissions from burning and recycling processes can lead to smog and other environmental issues.
Many electronics contain materials that can damage the environment, such as mercury in light bulbs, which presents a problem when recycled or disposed of.
There are a lot of problems that stem from the production and use of electronics, as well as the recycling process itself, but it can be prevented by reducing our dependency on these products. Once we reduce the amount of e-waste we produce, we might be able to reduce the issues we face with improper disposal and recycling
Improper disposal forces developing countries to deal with the e-waste rather than developed ones, increasing unemployment rates in these areas.
Steps are being taken on a global level to prevent this, though there are still many issues that need to be worked out. By using electronics responsibly, we can reduce the amount of e-waste that ends up in landfills while reducing harmful emissions.