Japan announced that the Olympic medals for the 2020 Games in Tokyo could be made from recycled e-waste.
Japan produced 17.3 kilograms of electronic waste per person in 2013, and the Nikkei Asian Review reported that the recovered gold and silver from small consumer electronics in Japan is equivalent to 16% and 22% of the world’s total reserves, respectively.
A global issue
E-waste refers to electronic appliances such as mobile phones, computers, and televisions that have been discarded.
More than 20 million tons of e-waste are produced annually, only 40% of which is recycled; 60% of global e-waste ends up in landfills.
Recycling e-waste is not just good for the environment. According to a Zion Research report, global demand for e-waste management will reach USD58 billion in 2021, up from USD17 billion in 2015.
80% of consumers want smartphones to last and be easy to fix, and over half of consumers want manufacturers to release fewer phone models and do more to help them recycle their old devices, according to a new Greenpeace survey of 6,000 people from USA, China, Mexico, Russia, Germany and South Korea.
A revised European Union Directive on Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment (WEEE), which came into force this year, requires Member States to collect 45% of electronic equipment sold. By 2019, the collection target will jump to 65% of equipment sold – or 85% of WEEE generated.
A parliamentary panel in India recently called for separate legislation to make e-waste disposal at designated collection centres mandatory, saying that the present e-waste management system set up under the Environment Protection Act 1986 is not effective.
ITU’s role in reducing e-waste
These include the work of ITU-T Study Group 5, which has developed guidelines to help countries establish sustainable e-waste management programmes and e-waste policies, and ITU’s ‘Connect 2020 Agenda’, which calls for reducing the volume of redundant e-waste by 50% by 2020.
ITU News / Lucy Spencer (@)