The World Threw Away 54 Million Tons of Electronics Last Year

An employee reaches for electronic waste awaiting to be dismantled as recyclable waste in USA. Zoran Milich / Getty Images

A shocking 53.6 million metric tons of electronic waste were discarded last year, a new UN-backed report has revealed. (A metric ton is the equivalent of 2,205 pounds.) This record-breaking number is tough to picture, but as the CBC explains, it’s equivalent to 350 cruise ships the size of the Queen Mary 2, which could create a line 78 miles (125 km) long. 

The Global E-Waste Monitor releases reports about the state of electronic waste worldwide, and its third edition, published in July 2020, shows that e-waste is up 21% from five years ago. This isn’t surprising, considering how many more people are adopting new technology and updating devices regularly to have the latest versions, but the report shows that national collection and recycling strategies are nowhere close to matching consumption rates.

E-waste (or Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment [WEEE], as it’s called in Europe) refers to many forms of electronics and electric-powered items, from smartphones, laptops, and office equipment, to kitchen equipment, air conditioners, tools, toys, musical instruments, household appliances, and other products that rely on batteries or electrical plugs. Read more…

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