According to a UN-backed study, e-waste rose to a record high of 45 tonnes worldwide in 2016.

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E-waste is defined as anything with a plug or battery and has risen by 8% in 2016 from 41 tonnes in 2014. The issue with e-waste is that valuable metals, like gold, silver, copper, platinum, palladium are not being recycled. If the e-waste in 2016 was properly recycled it would have been worth an estimated 55 billion euros (about R808 billion). However, only 8.9 million of the 45 million tonnes was documented as collected and recycled in 2016. That means that most of the e-waste ended up as discarded rubbish in landfills which is not only devastating to the environment but also doesn’t make economic sense as e-waste could be worth some money if recycled.


China was the biggest source of e-waste according to the study, contributing 7.2 million tonnes in 2016, followed by the United States in second place. Europe had the highest collection rates, at 35%.

The study found that the e-waste problem is aggravated by society’s current throwaway consumer behaviour. Currently, consumers of electronic devices tend to throw away their old devices either to upgrade to a newer device or because replacement is cheaper than repair.

As this study shows, it is important that e-waste is properly collected and recycled, with the first step having to be a program easily accessible to consumers. E-waste is expected to rise to 52.2 million tonnes by 2021 according to the study. With that much waste expected to be generated, programs should be in place to not only prevent or lessen environmental damage but to possibly make some money of old waste too.

Are you currently recycling your old gadgets or devices? Drop us a comment below and let us know what you do with your old electronic waste.

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