By 2017, the global volume of discarded refrigerators, TVs, cellphones, computers, monitors and other electronic waste will weigh almost as much as 200 Empire State Buildings, a new report predicts.
The forecast, based on data gathered by United Nations organizations, governments, and nongovernment and science organizations in a partnership known as the “Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) Initiative,” predicts e-waste generation will swell by a third in the next five years, led by the United States and China. The StEP Initiative created a map of the world’s e-waste, which is available online.
Until now, comprehensive data on global e-waste has been hard to come by, and countries define e-waste very differently. For example, the United States only includes consumer electronics such as TVs and computers, whereas European nations include everything that has a battery or power cord in the e-waste category.
“This is why we have developed this e-waste map. It’s the first time we’re introducing really comparable data,” said Ruediger Kuehr of United Nations University, in Germany, and executive secretary of the StEP Initiative. “In addition, it gives magnitude to the issue on a national level, so policymakers are aware of the issue in order to take action,” Kuehr told LiveScience.
Mapping Worldwide E-Waste
The interactive e-waste map shows data from 184 countries on the estimated amount of electrical and electronic equipment that hits the market and how much e-waste it ultimately generates. Having this data could helpgovernments and companies manage their e-waste.
The world produced nearly 54 million tons (49 million metric tons) of used electrical and electronic products last year. That’s an average of about 43 lbs. (20 kg), or the weight of eight bricks, for each of the 7 billion people on Earth.
The StEP Initiative forecasts that by 2017, the world will produce about 33% more e-waste, or 72 million tons (65 million metric tons). That amount weighs about 11 times as much as the Great Pyramid of Giza.
China currently leads the world in production of electrical and electronic equipment. In 2012, China produced about 12.2 million tons (11.1 million metric tons), followed by the U.S. with about 11 million tons (10 million metric tons).
However, the United States eclipses China in e-waste generation, because more products previously put on the market in the U.S. are likely to be retired. In 2012, the U.S. produced about 10.4 million tons (9.4 million metric tons), versus China’s 8 million tons (7.3 million metric tons).
The U.S. generated the seventh highest amount of e-waste per person — about 66 lbs. (30 kg) per capita. (The country with the highest per capita e-waste was Qatar.)
E-Waste in the U.S.
The U.S. National Center for Electronics Recycling (NCER) and MIT have released a detailed report on U.S. generation, collection and export of used electronics in conjunction with the e-waste map. see more