Environmental Protection

World's eWaste Flows Mapped

The United States are almost tied for eWaste volume per year, each responsible for a 20 percent of the total volume.

The world's eWaste generation and flows have been mapped, and the result is as bad as you would expect. By 2017, all of that year's discarded refrigerators, TVs, cell phones, computers, and other e products could fill a line of heavy trucks 75 percent around the equator, representing a 33 percent increase during the past five years.

The E-Waste World Map, produced by the UNU-coordinated Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) Initiative, based in Bonn Germany, and posted Dec. 16, was created by data from 184 countries. The research and map will help governments and companies to plan eWaste management. Prof. Kazuhiko Takeuchi, director of the United Nations University Institute for Sustainability and Peace, said eWaste "is a pressing global problem, and UNU is committed through its research, and also through coordinating the StEP Initiative, to provide science-based but applied recommendations to policymakers in governments and industry. And knowing and understanding the magnitude of the issue is key."

Almost 48.9 million metric tons of used electrical and electronic products were produced last year, and the United States was responsible for 9,400 metric tons of, and the EU was responsible for 9,918 metrics of it. The volume is growing. Based on current trends, StEP experts predict that by 2017, the annual volume will increase to 65.4 million tons — "a weight equivalent to almost 200 Empire State Buildings or 11 Great Pyramids of Giza."

"The lack of comprehensive data has made it hard to grasp the full magnitude of the problem," said Dr. Ruediger Kuehr of UNU-ISP's Sustainable Cycles operating unit in Germany, which leads the StEP Initiative. "This constantly updated, map-linked database showing e-waste volume by country together with legal texts will help lead to better awareness and policymaking at the public and private levels."

China generated the highest volume of eWaste during 2012, according to the research, followed by the United States.

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