Recycling of e-waste at only 20% worldwide

Published by marco on

The article Just 20 percent of e-waste is being recycled by Scott K. Johnson (Ars Technica) provides a good overview of the global recycling situation, based on a recent report from the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union.

As you would expect, amount of recycling and waste produced per region differs considerably.

“Africa, for example, accounted for only about five percent of the total e-waste generated—roughly zero of which was recycled. Europe and Russia combined to generate about 28 percent of the world’s e-waste, but recycled it at a higher average rate of 35 percent. That’s partly due to recycling rates of around 70 percent in Switzerland, Sweden, and Norway.

“The United States produced 14 percent of e-waste and recycled less than a quarter of it—just above the global average. China, which has four times the population of the US, came in at about 16 percent of the world’s e-waste, with about 18 percent getting recycled.”

So the U.S. has about an average recycling rate, but produces 14% of e-waste with only 4.5% (Wolfram Alpha) of the world’s population. China generates ¼ as much e-waste per-capita.

Switzerland has an enviable 70% documented recycling rate. This doesn’t come as a complete surprise, as any store that sells electronics in Switzerland must also accept any and all electronic and electrical items for recycling. It’s as easy as dropping it off when you go grocery-shopping.