Electronic Waste is Out of Control
A partnership formed in 2017 between the United Nations International Telecommunication Union, the International Solid Waste Association and other groups to track the accumulation of electronic debris has reported via the publication Global E-Waste Monitor 2020 that a record 53.6 million metric tons of electronics were discarded in 2019 and could likely increase to 74.7 million tons per year by 2030.
E-waste includes battery-powered and plug-in laptop computers, smartphones and televisions. Not only are people using more consumer electronics, they are not doing a good job of recycling them safely. The report found that of the e-waste generated in 2019, only 9.3 million tons, or 17.4 percent, were recycled.
Cadmium and mercury are conspicuous sources of pollution from these devices, as are refrigerant chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons that can leach into the environment. Plastic waste is another concern. The report states that e-waste contains so many valuable recoverable metals such as iron, copper and gold that it represents a prime opportunity to reclaim these raw materials instead of mining them anew.