Tag Archives: e-waste

Updates from ITU

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These outdated and unused devices will be given a second life as recycled e-waste.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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Updates from ITU

Dark skies, bright future: overcoming Nigeria’s e-waste epidemic
By Eloise Touni – Nigerian law prohibits burning plastic cables, as well as acid leaching and other common methods used by John and his fellow pickers to reclaim valuable metals from discarded electronics. But minimal enforcement and a low awareness of the risks they are running means most pickers continue to regularly expose themselves to toxins that cause respiratory and dermatological problems, eye infections, neurodevelopmental issues, and, ultimately, shorter lives.

While international agreements like the Basel Convention prohibit the import of hazardous waste, unscrupulous importers and a porous customs system mean Nigeria now ranks alongside Ghana as one of the world’s leading destinations for electronic waste. The country receives 71,000 tonnes of used consumer goods through the two main ports in Lagos from the European Union and other more industrialized economies every year.

“Some of the e-waste from abroad is comprised of cathode-ray TVs, which contain lead, as well as refrigerators and air conditioners containing hydrochlorofluorocarbons, making it a threat to those who are dismantling and dealing with the products,” the UN Environment Program’s Eloise Touni says.

Plastic components, including hard casings and cables, also contain persistent organic pollutants used as flame retardants, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE).

These were banned by the Stockholm Convention due to their long-lasting global impacts and are regularly detected in ecosystems and people all over the world, including in Arctic wildernesses and their traditional inhabitants. more>

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