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US e-waste overview

Global E-Waste to Jump One-Third by 2017

US e-waste overviewEnd-of-life electronics worldwide are expected to increase 33 percent in just five years, reaching 65.5 million metric tons annually by 2017, according to data from Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) Initiative, a UN-backed alliance.

StEP illustrates the e-waste volume in an interactive E-Waste World Map, which the initiative says is the first of its kind. The map shows, for example, that almost 48.9 million metric tons of e-waste was produced last year — an average of 7 kg for each of the world’s 7 billion people.

In 2012 China and the US topped the world’s totals in market volume of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and e-waste. China put the highest volume of EEE on the market in 2012 — 11.1 million tons, followed by the US at 10 million tons. Those positions were reversed when it came to the total volume of e-waste generated per year. Here the US had the world’s highest figure of 9.4 million tons and China generated the second highest e-waste total of 7.3 million tons.

A report released in tandem with the map provides a detailed analysis of the US’ generation, collection and export of some types of used electronics shows that about 258.2 million used, whole unit computers, monitors, TVs and mobile phones were generated in 2010. The study, Quantitative Characterization of Domestic and Transboundary Flows of Used Electronics, found mobile phones constitute the biggest component in units — with an estimated 120 million collected — while TVs and computer monitors made up a major proportion of the total weight.

The report was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Materials Systems Laboratory and the US National Center for Electronics Recycling, and funded by the EPA in support of the US government’s National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship.

StEP offers recommendations for reducing e-waste including:

  • Create trade codes for used electronic products to enable better tracking and distinction of shipments for example only for repair.
  • More open access to shipment level trade data to enable more accurate analyses of export flows.
  • Greater reporting of re-export destinations to improve the accuracy of final destinations.
  • Track flows over multiple years to discern trends.

Earlier this month Dell developed an e-waste model for developing countries and opened East Africa’s first large-scale e-waste recycling hub.

Particularly in developing countries, e-waste has monetary value, according to a UN report published in October.

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