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Global E-Waste Monitor Report

E-waste is a term used to cover all items of electrical and electronic equipment and its parts that have been discarded by its owner as waste without the intent of re-use, also known as WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment).

The 'Global E-Waste Monitor 2014', compiled by UN's think tank United Nations University (UNU), said at 32 per cent, the US and China produced the most e-waste overall in 2014. India came in fifth, behind the US, China, Japan and Germany, the report said.

Most e-waste in the world in 2014 was generated in Asia at 16 Mt or 3.7 kg per inhabitant. The top three Asian nations with the highest e-waste generation in absolute quantities are China (6.0 Mt), Japan (2.2 Mt) and India (1.7 Mt).

The top per capita producers by far are the wealthy nations of northern and western Europe, the top five being Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, and the UK. The lowest amount of e-waste per inhabitant was generated in Africa (1.7 kg/inhabitant).

In 2014, people worldwide discarded all but a small fraction of an estimated 41.8 Mt of electrical and electronic equipment -- mostly end-of-life kitchen, laundry and bathroom equipment like microwave ovens, washing machines and dishwashers.

The volume of e-waste is expected to rise by 21% to 50 Mt in 2018, said the report, which details the location and composition of the world's fast-growing e-waste problem.

While only 7% of e-waste last year was made up of mobile phones, calculators, personal computers, printers, and small information technology equipment, almost 60% was a mix of large and small equipment used in homes and businesses, such as vacuum cleaners, toasters, electric shavers, video cameras, washing machines, electric stoves, mobile phones, calculators, personal computers, and lamps.

The 41.8 Mt weight of last year's e-waste is comparable to the distance from New York to Tokyo and back. The global quantity of e-waste in 2014 is comprised of 1.0 Mt lamps, 3.0 Mt of Small IT, 6.3 Mt of screens and monitors, 7.0 Mt of temperature exchange equipment (cooling and freezing equipment), 11.8 Mt large equipment, and 12.8 Mt of small equipment. The amount of e-waste is expected to grow to 49.8 Mt in 2018, with an annual growth rate of 4 to 5 per cent.

The e-waste generated in 2014 contained an estimated 16,500 kilotons of iron, 1,900 kilotons of copper, 300 tons of gold (equal to 11 per cent of the world's total 2013 gold production), as well as silver, aluminum, palladium plastic and other resources with a combined estimated value of USD 52 billion.

Toxins in that e-waste include 2.2 Mt of lead glass, 0.3 Mt of batteries, as well as mercury, cadmium, chromium and 4,400 tones of ozone-depleting substances (CFCs). Health problems associated with such toxins include impaired mental development, cancer, and damage to livers and kidneys, the report added.

However, they are likely to be the gap between the e-waste generated, officially collected and the e-waste in the waste bin. Official data for the trans boundary movement of e-waste (mostly from developed to developing countries) are unknown.

"The monitor provides a baseline for national policymakers, producers and the recycling industry, to plan take-back systems. It can also facilitate cooperation around controlling illegal trade, supporting necessary technology development and transfer, and assisting international organizations, governments and research institutes in their efforts as they develop appropriate countermeasures. "This will eventually lead to improved resource efficiency while reducing the environmental and health impacts of e-waste."

Recyclable Materials in e-waste are valuable, secondary resources, and this "Urban Mine" needs to be explored by efficient and environmental system. In the mean time, toxic material in e-Waste are harmful to the environment, and this "toxic mine" need to be taken care of by proper handling system as well.

Rajendraprasad Medepalli