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UN warns on growing levels of e-waste

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa)

The world is dumping an increasing amount of electronic waste, risking the health of both the environment and the population.

To make matters worse, a significant proportion of that waste is being disposed of illegally, according to a new report from The International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

The report claims 53.6 million tonnes of electronic waste has been dumped this year, up 21 percent compared to five years ago. In 2019 alone, meanwhile, every individual on the planet discarded an average of roughly 7kg of e-waste.

This problem is exacerbated by policies enacted by manufacturers of electronic devices, who deliberately build kit that has a shorter life cycle and is more difficult to repair in order to maximise revenue.

The report also claims that poor waste tracking is only aggravating the problem. "The fate of 82.6 per cent (44.3 Mt) of e-waste generated in 2019 is uncertain, and its whereabouts and the environmental impact varies across the different regions," said the authors.

By the time we reach 2030, the amount of e-waste is expected to hit 2030, becoming an enormous threat to human health. The report notes that mercury, used in monitors, PCBs and fluorescent lights, can severely damage the brain if it gets into the body.