ILO Says Urgent Action Needed to Better Manage E-Waste

Representatives of governments and workers' and employers' organizations agreed at an April 9-11 meeting at the ILO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, that governments should increase and promote investments in waste management infrastructure and systems at all levels to manage the rapidly growing flows of e-waste.

The International Labour Organization is calling for urgent action to better manage electric and electronic waste (e-waste) produced around the world so it can be turned into a valuable source of decent work. Representatives of governments and workers' and employers' organizations agreed at an April 9-11 meeting at the ILO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, that governments should increase and promote investments in waste management infrastructure and systems at all levels to manage the rapidly growing flows of e-waste.

They also agreed on the urgency of protecting people working with e-waste, which is toxic and hazardous to both workers and the environment.

"Workers handling e-waste have no voice, no bargaining power, and they are breaking hazardous materials by their hands," said worker vice-chairperson James Towers. "Moreover, these workers are unaware of the many risks associated with handling e-waste."

Just 20 percent of e-waste is properly recycled, ILO reported.

"There is great business opportunity in the e-waste sector," said employer vice-chairperson Patrick Van den Bossche. "We need to step up our efforts in creating decent and sustainable jobs, fostering an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises, offering new products and new services, and adding value through enhancing the circular economy."

"In my own country, Nigeria, and in several other African countries, e-waste is littering our landscape," said government vice-chairperson Aniefiok Etim Essah. "Our youth possesses the creativity and potential for learning skills to manage e-waste, giving us the opportunity to increase youth employment."

ILO is a member of the UN E-Waste Coalition, which was formed to increase collaboration, build partnerships, and more efficiently provide support to help states address the e-waste challenge.

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