UN: Electronic waste to rise a third by 2017

The volume of end-of-life electronics is expected to increase by 33% to 65.4 million tonnes annually by 2017, according to a United Nations (UN) report.

Based on data compiled by Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) Initiative – a partnership of UN organisations, industry, governments, non-government and science organisations – global e-waste is expected to rise from 48.9 million metric tonnes in 2012 to 65.4 million tonnes by 2017.

Highlighting the extent of the problem, the UN’s report shows that the amount of used electrical and electronic products produced in 2012 averaged 7kg for each of the world’s seven billion people. Under the UN’s forecast, this figure will rise to more than 9kg per person by 2017.

These predictions mean that the amount of global e-waste – defined as anything with a battery or a cord – in 2017 could weigh the same as almost 200 Empire State Buildings or 11 Great Pyramids of Giza.

With greater awareness of the issue, many in the industry are pointing towards a servicisation model as a possible solution.

Hewlett-Packard’s director of environmental responsibility EMEA Kirstie McIntyre recently told edie: “We need to move away from becoming attached to our tablet or smartphone or PC – instead consumers need to start leasing these products”.

Another concept is the ‘device-for-life’, where consumers simply upgrade devices such as smartphones, a significant contributor to e-waste, rather than replacing the entire product every few years. In Europe alone, upgrades or damage make 100 million phones obsolete every year.

For more on global e-waste and how longer-life device concepts are emerging read ‘Making Obsolescence Obsolete: A mobile concept

Leigh Stringer

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