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UN: E-waste's 42 million tonnes represents 'valuable' (and ‘toxic’) urban mine

7% is unwanted mobes, PCs, printers

Around three million tonnes of unwanted mobile phones, personal computers, and printers were tossed onto the world's scrapheap last year, according to a report by the United Nations.

That is the equivalent of around 214 billion mobile phones, or 1.2 billion laptops.

However, ICT rubbish paled into insignificance compared with the total global output of e-waste, or waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), which reached 41.8 million tonnes in 2014.

“Worldwide, e-waste constitutes a valuable ‘urban mine’ — a large potential reservoir of recyclable materials," said UN Under-Secretary-General David Malone. "At the same time, the hazardous content of e-waste constitutes a ‘toxic mine’ that must be managed with extreme care."

Almost 60 per cent of global e-waste in 2014 came from discarded kitchen, laundry, and bathroom equipment, said the report.

Some 13 million tonnes came from items such as vacuum cleaners, microwaves, toasters, electric shavers and video cameras; and 11.8 million tonnes from washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, electric stoves, and photovoltaic panels.

This e-waste represented some $52 billion (£35 billion) of potentially reusable resources, said the UN.

The US and China between them discarded nearly one-third of the world’s total e-waste.

The European countries with the highest e-waste generation in absolute quantities were Germany, discarding 1.8 million tonnes and the UK, which threw away 1.5 million tonnes.

The new WEEE EU Directive will come into force in 2019. ®

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