How Switzerland is winning the battle against e-waste
ITU News – A handful of old mobile phones – different makes and models, all different sizes and colors – lay in a grey bucket. They are about to be chopped into thousands of unrecognizable pieces.
These outdated and unused devices will be given a second life as recycled e-waste. But many phones won’t.
According to the latest estimates, the world discards approximately 50 million metric tonnes of e-waste annually. E-waste is full of hazardous material – including mercury, cadmium and lead – that can cause damage to human health and the environment if not managed properly.
But only 20 percent of global e-waste is recycled. The rest ends up in landfill, burned or illegally traded every year – or is not recycled at all.
In Switzerland alone, a country with a population of just 8.4 million people, there are an estimated 8-10 million smartphones lying unused in homes throughout the country.
“It’s mostly emotional; people are very sentimental about their cell phones,” said Lovey Wymann, Communications for Swico, Switzerland’s digital e-waste agency.
And yet, Switzerland is a good example of how to deal with the growing environmental issue.
Despite being one of the biggest global producers of e-waste – producing 184 kilotons in 2016 – the country collects and recycles roughly 75 percent of this discarded material, with 134 kilotonnes recovered in 2015. When it comes specifically to digital e-waste (for example, mobile phones and other devices), the recycling rate in 2018 was as high as 95 percent. more>
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