As digital and tech devices become more available worldwide, their responsible disposal is becoming a challenge for many countries. In response, ITU, the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technology (ICT) has partnered with the United Nations University (UNU), acting through its Vice Rectorate in Europe hosted Sustainable Cycles (SCYCLE) Programme, and the Solid Waste Association (ISWA) to form the Global e-Waste Statistics Partnership.
The main objectives of the partnership are to improve and collect worldwide e-waste statistics. As such, the partnership will support countries to produce reliable and comparable e-waste statistics, and will also deliver capacity building workshops and raise visibility on the importance of tracking and managing e-waste.
In addition to the increased production of electrical and electronic equipment worldwide, is the increased pace at which new technologies are being developed. As a result, the amount of electronic waste, or e-waste, is growing rapidly. Used, broken, or obsolete equipment, such as mobile phones, laptops, televisions and batteries contain substances that pose considerable environmental and health risks, especially if not disposed of properly. Most e-waste is not properly documented and not treated through appropriate recycling chains and methods. According to the United Nations Environment Program report Waste Crimes, up to 50 million tons of electronic waste are expected to be dumped in 2017. This represents a 20 per cent increase from 2015.
Measuring e-waste is an important step towards addressing the e-waste challenge. Statistics help to evaluate developments over time, set and assess targets, and identify best practices of policies. Better e-waste data will help to minimize its generation, prevent illegal dumping, promote recycling, and create jobs in the reuse, refurbishment and recycling sectors. In so doing, this will contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG12, to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”.
“ITU has a track record of providing the world with the most reliable and trustworthy ICT-related data,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “We are pleased to be part of this partnership and to lend our expertise and our long standing experience in data collection to assist countries to track and measure their e-waste, so that responsible e-waste management can be implemented.”
In November 2017, the partnership will publish the global e-waste statistics in a comprehensive report called the Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, which will provide a review of the e-waste challenge to inform country-level decision-making on e-waste management.
“Better statistics will inform policy making to minimize the generation of e-waste, prevent illegal dumping, promote recycling and create valuable jobs in the reuse, refurbishment and recycling sectors,” said Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau. “This will also contribute to achievement of SDG12, which seeks to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns,” he added.
Through its work, the partnership will identify best practices of global e-waste management and further identify recycling opportunities. To expand its scope and accelerate progress, the partnership is also seeking to engage with other public and private partners interested in addressing the global e-waste challenge.