UN reveals record 41.8 million tonnes of electrical waste discarded in 2014


The amount of global waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) discarded worldwide reached a record 41.8 million tonnes, according to a new United Nations University report.

Of this total, almost 60% was discarded kitchen, laundry and bathroom equipment.

While personal computer devices such as mobile phones, personal computers and printers accounted for a total of 7% of the waste.

According to the report, The Global E-Waste Monitor 2014: Quantities, Flows and Resources, this represented $52 billion (£35 billion) of potentially reusable resources, yet little of it was collected for recovery or even treated/disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.

It suggests that just one sixth of this WEEE was recycled or made available for reuse.

While the US and China produce the most WEEE overall (32% of the total), the top per capita producers were Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark and UK.

United Nations under-secretary general and United Nations University rector David Malone said: “Worldwide, e-waste constitutes a valuable ‘urban mine’ – a large potential reservoir of recyclable materials. At the same time, the hazardous content of e-waste constitutes a ‘toxic mine’ that must be managed with extreme care.

“The monitor provides a baseline for national policymakers, producers and the recycling industry, to plan take-back systems. It can also facilitate cooperation around controlling illegal trade, supporting necessary technology development and transfer, and assisting international organisations, governments and research institutes in their efforts as they develop appropriate countermeasures. This will eventually lead to improved resource efficiency while reducing the environmental and health impacts of e-waste.”