UN, World Economic Forum and Partners Come Together to Address E-Waste Challenges

Technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution show a huge potential and could lead to “dematerialization”, better product tracking, take-back and recycling, and products sold as services.

62.5 billion dollars in materials lost in approximate annual 50 million tonnes of e-waste which could nearly triple by 2050

  • Seven UN entities have come together, supported by the World Economic Forum and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development to better address e-waste challenges.
  • A new joint report shows that the world now discards approximately 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) per year, greater in weight than all of the commercial airliners ever made, or enough Eiffel towers to fill Manhattan. Only 20% is formally recycled. The United Nations University predicts e-waste could nearly triple to 120 million tonnes by 2050 if nothing changes.
  • In terms of material value, this presents an opportunity worth over 62.5 billion dollars per year, more than the GDP of most countries and three times the output of the world’s silver mines. There is 100 times more gold in a tonne of e-waste than a tonne of gold ore.
  • The joint report calls for a new vision for electronics based on the circular economy and the need for collaboration with major brands, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), academia, trade unions, civil society and associations in a deliberative process to change the system.
  • The report points to the importance of new technologies; although e-waste is growing, technologies from Internet of things to cloud computing show a huge potential and could lead to “dematerialization” and better product tracking, take-back and recycling.
  • Major global brands, governments and other organizations support the initiative with commitments and projects to address e-waste and build a circular economy.

The joint report calls for collaboration with multinationals, SMEs, entrepreneurs, academia, trade unions, civil society and associations to create a circular economy for electronics where waste is designed out, the environmental impact is reduced and decent work is created for millions.

The new report supports the work of the E-waste Coalition, which includes:

  • International Labour Organization (ILO);
  • International Telecommunication Union (ITU);
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment);
  • United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO);
  • United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR);
  • United Nations University (UNU), and
  • Secretariats of the Basel and Stockholm conventions.

The Coalition is supported by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Economic Forum and coordinated by the Secretariat of the Environment Management Group (EMG).

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