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E-waste recycling rates remain dangerously low as demand for electronic devices booms, UN report reveals

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By illuminem briefings

· 2 min read

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🗞️ Driving the news: A new UN report highlights that less than a quarter of the 62 billion kilograms of e-waste generated globally in 2022 was recycled 
The demand for electronic devices, fueled by massive digitalisation, has led to a significant increase in e-waste, raising environmental and health concerns.

🔭 The context: The Global E-Waste Monitor by the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) indicates an 82% increase in e-waste since 2010 
• E-waste includes discarded electronic devices containing toxic materials, posing risks to human health and the environment when not properly disposed of

🌍 Why it matters for the planet: With only 22.3% of e-waste formally recycled in 2022, the majority ends up in landfills, leading to soil and water contamination 
• This mismanagement releases harmful substances, including mercury and brominated flame retardants, into the environment, exacerbating pollution and health risks

⏭️ What's next: UNITAR calls for urgent actions to improve e-waste recycling rates, including greater investment in recycling infrastructure, promotion of repair and reuse practices, capacity building, and stricter measures against illegal e-waste shipments 
• Achieving a 60% global recycling rate by the end of the decade could result in economic, health, and environmental benefits exceeding US$38 billion

💬 One quote: "No more than 1% of demand for essential rare earth elements is met by e-waste recycling. Simply put: Business as usual can’t continue," says Kees Baldé, UNITAR senior scientific expert and lead author.

📈 One stat: The metals in the global e-waste generated in 2022 were valued at US$91 billion, including significant amounts of copper, gold, and iron.

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