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New UN Report Shows eWaste Rising - Danger for Australia?

Posted by Rhonda Tanti

A new article in Fairfax Media today covers a new UN report but misses some crucial information that affects us here in Australia. The article begins:

"The mountain of refrigerators, mobile phones, television sets and other electrical waste disposed of annually worldwide is forecast to grow by a third by 2017, according to a new UN study.

E-waste – defined as anything with a battery or a cord – can pose a big problem because it often contains substances that are harmful to humans and the environment if not properly treated. On the other hand, some of it can be profitably recycled.

A UN think tank dedicated to the issue estimates the amount of e-waste will rise from almost 48.9 million metric tonnes in 2012 to 65.4 million metric tonnes in 2017. That's nearly 200 times the weight of the Empire State Building."

You can read the entire article here

And the original report is at the United Nations University (UNU) website.

The report references a new World eWaste Map created by the UNU-coordinated Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) Initiative which paints a disturbing picture if you look at statistics in a specific way. The report references two main measures - 'EEE Put on Market' which is Electrical and Electronic Equipment produced (per country), and 'E-waste Generated'. Where things get very interesting is the two measures used for relative gross amounts of e-waste: 'KG per inhabitant', and 'total in metric kilo tonnes'. Whilst it is very important to look at the total ewaste generated as this is the most pressing concern for countries like China and India, it is equally valid to look at the 'KG per inhabitant' of e-waste, or as we like to put it in Australia- 'per head of population'. Things are not so rosy for Australia when using this measure:

 Country  eWaste Kg per Inhabitant 
 USA  29.78
 UK  21.82
 China  5.36
 Australia  25.23

As you can see, per head of population Australia is the second largest producer of e-waste in the world! Whilst we have 4 main legislative tools to govern ewaste and product stewardship, a lot needs to be done to educate and address the e-waste issue in Australia, for individuals and businesses.



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