Global E-waste Generation Reaches Record High in 2019, Could Reach 74.7 Million Metric Tons by 2030

In June, the Global E-Waste Statistics Partnership (GESP) released The Global E-waste Monitor 2020,  which examined the quantities, flows, and circular economy potential of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) across the planet. The report also includes national and regional analysis on
e-waste quantities and legislative instruments.

Cover of Global E-waste Monitor 2020 report

GESP was founded in 2017 by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations University (UNU), and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA). Its objectives are to monitor developments of e-waste over time, and help countries to produce e-waste statistics, which in turn will inform policymakers, industries, academia, media, and the general public by enhancing the understanding and interpretation of global e-waste data and its relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

According to the report, in 2019, the world generated 53.6 million metric tons (Mt, or Megatoone; see https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Glossary:Megatonne_(Mt) and http://www.onlineconversion.com/faq_09.htm for explanations on units) of e-waste. This is an average of 7.3 kg (a little over 16 lbs) per capita, and represents a 21% increase in generation within 5 years. Further, the global generation of e-waste grew by 9.2 Mt since 2014 and is projected to grow to 74.7 Mt by 2030–this means the amount of e-waste generated will almost double in only 16 years.  Just 17.4% of the e-waste generated in 2019 was officially recycled, through formal recycling programs.

Additional findings include:

  • “The fate of 82.6% (44.3 Mt) of e-waste generated in 2019 is uncertain, and its whereabouts and the environmental impact varies across the different regions…In middle- and low-income countries… e-waste is managed mostly by the informal sector.”
  • “Since 2014, the number of countries that have adopted a national e-waste policy, legislation, or regulation has increased from 61 to 78.”
  • “E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury, brominated flame retardants (BFR), and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). The increasing levels of e-waste, low collection rates, and non-environmentally sound disposal and treatment of this waste stream pose significant risks to the environment and to human health. A total of 50 t of mercury and 71 kt of BFR plastics are found in globally undocumented flows of e-waste annually, which is largely released into the environment and impacts the health of the exposed workers.”
  • “Improper management of e-waste also contributes to global warming.” (Note that outside the US,  the term “e-waste” or “WEEE” includes electrical equipment, such as air conditioners and refrigerators, which contain refrigerants that are greenhouse gases, whereas in the US, “e-waste” tends to refer to computers and peripherals, cell phones, printers, televisions, and similar electronics.)
  • “The value of raw materials in the global e-waste generated in 2019 is equal to approximately $57
    billion USD.”

The authors state, “In summary, it is essential to substantially increase the officially documented 17.4% global e-waste collection and recycling rate, especially in view of the rapid growth of this waste stream, which is already projected to reach 74.7 Mt by 2030, combined with increasing recovery of materials towards closed material loops and reducing the use of virgin materials.”

You may download the complete report at https://globalewaste.org/news/surge-global-waste/.

See also this analysis by Justine Calma for The Verge, July 2, 2020:  https://www.theverge.com/21309776/record-amount-ewaste-2019-global-report-environment-health.  Highlights from this article include:

  • “Small electronics — like video cameras, electronic toys, toasters, and electric shavers — made up the biggest chunk of 2019’s e-waste (about 32 percent). The next largest piece of the pie (24 percent) was made up of large equipment like kitchen appliances and copy machines. This group includes discarded solar panels, which aren’t a huge problem yet but could pose issues as the relatively new technology gets older. Screens and monitors created about half as much trash as large equipment but still amounted to close to 7 million metric tons of e-waste in 2019. Small IT and telecommunications equipment like phones added up to about 5 million metric tons of trash.”  
  • “The growing mounds of e-waste are only getting more complex and more toxic, according to Scott Cassel, who founded the nonprofit Product Stewardship Institute. ‘Electronic companies do a great job of designing for pleasure and efficiency, but the rapid change in consumer demand also means that they’re designing for obsolescence. So today’s newest, coolest product becomes tomorrow’s junk,’ Cassel says.”

iFixit Begins Regular Right to Repair Podcast With Live YouTube Event

On January 31, 2019, iFixit hosted a live event on its YouTube channel, providing an overview of the Right to Repair movement including input from movement leaders Nathan Proctor, Gay Gordon-Byrne, and Jessa Jones.  You can watch the recorded livestream at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-zU8f_olwU&feature=youtu.be, or download it from https://www.buzzsprout.com/252243/939881 or from iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-right-to-repair-podcast/id1451251273.

According to the iFixit blog, “The coalition at Repair.org has been hard at work getting 15 states to introduce Right to Repair bills so far this year. But just like any grassroots movement, they need as much support as they can get—which is why we started a podcast to help spread the word! Every other week, we’ll be gathering special guests to update you on the latest Right to Repair news. You’ll hear stories about the fixers fighting for fair repair legislation, learn how to start a coalition in your state, and get tips for talking to your state representatives…Future episodes will focus on specific Right to Repair issues, so leave a note in the comments telling us what topics and guests you’d like us to feature!

The next broadcast is scheduled for Thursday, February 14th at 11 AM PST (1 PM CST) on the iFixit YouTube Channel, https://www.youtube.com/user/iFixitYourself. If you participate in the live event, you’ll get the chance to ask the presenters your questions about repair and associated legislation. Again, the video will be recorded for later viewing on YouTube and the audio will be shared on their social accounts the following day.

Illinois is one of the states that has previously introduced Right to Repair bills. For more information on the Right to Repair movement, see the Repair Association’s web site, https://repair.org/, and also check out posts tagged “Right to Repair” on the Illini Gadget Garage blog: http://illini-gadget-garage.istc.illinois.edu/tag/right-to-repair/.

Right to Repair advocacy image
Right to Repair advocacy image from Repair.org

Death by Design Screening, August 22 at Champaign Public Library

On Tuesday, August 22, the Illini Gadget Garage will be hosting a screening of the documentary Death by Design at the Champaign Public Library. Doors will open at 6:30 PM and the film will begin at 7:00. The film duration is 73 minutes.

The Illini Gadget Garage is a repair center that helps consumers with “do-it-together” troubleshooting and repair of minor damage and performance issues of electronics and small appliances. The project promotes repair as a means to keep products in service and out of the waste stream. The Illini Gadget Garage is coordinated by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center.

Death by Design explores the environmental and human costs of electronics, particularly considering their impacts in the design and manufacture stages, bearing in mind that many electronic devices are not built to be durable products that we use for many years. Cell phones, for example, are items that consumers change frequently, sometimes using for less than 2 years before replacing with a new model. When we analyze the effort put into, and potential negative impacts of, obtaining materials for devices through efforts like mining, the exposure to potentially harmful substances endured by laborers in manufacturing plants, and the environmental degradation and human health risks associated with informal electronics recycling practices in various parts of the word, the idea that we might see these pieces of technology as “disposable” in any way becomes particularly poignant. For more information on the film, including reviews, see http://deathbydesignfilm.com/about/  and
http://bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/dbd.html. You can also check out the trailer at the end of this post.

After the film, there will be a brief discussion and Q&A session facilitated by Joy Scrogum, Sustainability Specialist from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) and project coordinator for the Illini Gadget Garage. UI Industrial Design Professor William Bullock will also participate in the panel discussion; other panelists will be announced as they are confirmed. Professor Bullock is also an adviser for the Illini Gadget Garage project; see more about IGG advisers at http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/ilgadgetgarage/meet-the-advisers/.  Check the IGG web site calendar and Facebook page for room details and panelist announcements.

Admission to this public screening is FREE, but donations are suggested and appreciated to support future outreach and educational efforts of the Illini Gadget Garage. See http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/ilgadgetgarage/donate/donation-form/ to make an online donation and http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/ilgadgetgarage/ for more information on the project.

Bullfrog Films presents…DEATH BY DESIGN from Bullfrog Films on Vimeo.

Illini Gadget Garage Spring 2017 Open Hours, Pop-up Clinics

The Illini Gadget Garage, a collaborative repair center on the UI campus where students, staff, faculty, and community members can receive assistance with troubleshooting and repair of their personally owned electronics and small appliances with electronic components, has established its schedule for the Spring 2017 semester.

The repair shop, located at 1833 S. Oak St. in Champaign (click here for a map), is open from noon to 4 PM on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and from 10 AM to 2 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. No appointment is necessary, but it is recommended that you fill out the online diagnostic form prior to stopping by. This will give staff the opportunity to do some research on your devices and the problem you’re experiencing ahead of time to make your one-on-one session more efficient.

Note that Illini Gadget Garage staff and volunteers do not repair items FOR you, but rather WITH you, guiding you through the process of determining the problem, necessary steps to address it, and providing tools to accomplish the repairs. In this way, consumers can become empowered to take action to extend the useful life of their products without the potentially intimidating task of attempting repair, or determining what parts are needed, where to go for help, etc. all on their own. Working with the Illini Gadget Garage can also eliminate the need for more technically savvy do-it-yourselfers to obtain tools they may only need to use one time.

If you can’t fit a trip to the Oak St. facility into your schedule, consider stopping by Tech Tuesdays on Tuesday evenings from 6-9 PM at the Undergraduate Library Media Commons. Illini Gadget Garage staff will be on hand for assistance with devices, and to provide information on the project, volunteer opportunities, and other opportunities for collaboration. If your group or department is interested in hosting a pop-up repair clinic in your building, please fill out the online form to express interest in hosting a clinic.

Illini Gadget Garage assistance is currently available free of charge, thanks to seed funding from the UI Student Sustainability Committee and other sponsors. Questions about services, open hours, and volunteer opportunities can be addressed to illinigadgetgarage@gmail.com. General questions about the project, educational collaboration, sponsorship opportunities and related issues can be addressed to Joy Scrogum at jscrogum@illinois.edu or 217-333-8948.

circuit board with open hours for repair center listed

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ERCC Publishes Report on Consumer Awareness of Electronics Recycling Programs

ERCC logoThe Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearinghouse (ERCC) published a report on March 15, 2016 entitled “ERCC Consumer Awareness Survey: A Look at How Electronics Recycling Programs Have Impacted E-Cycling Activities And Awareness.”  According to the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), this is “the first study comparing state-level consumer awareness levels of electronics recycling programs as well as other important consumer preferences. Previous surveys of consumer awareness on electronics recycling have focused on a nationwide rate or within a single state. ERCC undertook the surveys in order to establish an additional measure of performance for electronics recycling programs, and to compare rates of awareness of electronics recycling options among states as well as ask other important questions. After developing a survey script with 10 standard questions on awareness, collection preference, barriers to recycling and other topics, ERCC surveyed member states who stepped forward to fund their survey costs, as well as other member and non-member states made possible by affiliate member contributions. In all, ERCC surveyed 6 states WITHOUT electronics recycling laws and 6 states WITH electronics recycling laws at varying levels of confidence. To carry out the surveys, ERCC contracted with Service 800, a company with 20 years of experience in the design and execution of customer satisfaction measurement surveys.”

States participating which do have electronics recycling legislation included Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Texas. Participating states without such legislation included Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wyoming.

The executive summary of the report states:

“As of late 2015, there are 25 states with laws on electronics recycling, and most have had multiple years of implementation. As the programs mature, many stakeholders are wanting a better understanding of measures of performance that goes beyond the current knowledge of “pounds collected” or “number of collection sites”. One desired measure of performance is the level of awareness of electronics recycling programs among consumers for whom the services are available. Prior to this study, a handful of states and one national organization measured awareness rates, but none had done so to compare rates among different states. The goal of the consumer awareness surveys featured in this report was to do just that.

The Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearinghouse (ERCC) conducted surveys of consumers in states where the state agency expressed an interest and was able to fund a survey. In addition, ERCC received contributions and surveyed an additional number of states (both with laws and without). The goal was to increase the number of state-level results and to gauge any difference in awareness and attitudes between states with and without laws, and also to get a general understanding overall awareness and other factors in increasing electronics recycling.

Survey results indicate that there does not appear to be a significant difference in awareness of recycling options when comparing states that have laws versus those that don’t. 40.7% of those surveyed across LAW STATES and NON-LAW STATES are CERTAIN they know where to recycle their electronics. Adding in those who “THINK THEY KNOW” where to take their used electronics, the national result is just over 70% awareness. The state with the highest combined response of “Yes, I know where” to recycle and “I think I know where” to recycle was Oregon at 79.7%. The lowest was Wyoming at 62.4%.

It is important to note the limitations to this survey – approximately 83% of the responses were from individuals in states that have laws. All of the non-law states were conducted at lower levels of confidence due to funding limitations, but they do give insights that were previously unavailable. Taken as a whole, the surveys conducted give us a baseline for comparing future awareness level results as programs become more widespread (or potentially contract), and key pieces of data on how consumers seek out and participate in electronics recycling programs across the country. One other limitation worth mentioning is that awareness and convenience have very distinct differences. A person may know they can recycle a computer 150 miles away, but that may not be a convenient location for them. Convenience (or accessibility) is key in determining whether a resident will recycle 3/15/2016 ERCC CONSUMER AWARENESS SURVEY 2 their electronics. In some states, the law specifically spells out how many recycling drop-off locations there must be for electronics in various counties. In other states, this is not something that is spelled out in the law at all. Furthermore, when looking at states without laws, there are no laws of convenience for electronics recycling. It is up to the consumer to source out a location in order to recycle. That location may or may not be convenient. Does this have an impact on recycling rates across the states? This may be something worth looking at in a future survey – whether or not convenience (distance from the closest collection site) effects recycling rates.”

To read the full report, go to http://www.electronicsrecycling.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/ERCC-Consumer-Awareness-Survey-Summary-Report-FINAL.pdf. This link is included with the SEI Resource Complilations.

Deadline Extended: Apply for the 2016 EPEAT Purchaser Awards by April 27th

EPEAT_logoThe deadline has been extended until April 27th to submit applications for the EPEAT Purchaser Awards. The awards recognize excellence in green procurement of electronics. EPEAT Purchasers will earn a star for each product category for which they have a written policy in place that requires the purchase of EPEAT registered electronics.

The EPEAT Purchaser Awards are open to all organizations that purchase EPEAT-registered products and meet the following requirements:

  1. Agree to have your organization as an EPEAT Purchaser. EPEAT Purchasers agree to share their specific EPEAT vendor contract language and to be listed on the EPEAT website. By submitting the EPEAT Purchaser Award Application, you agree to have your organization listed as an EPEAT Purchaser.
  2. Must have an organizational purchasing policy in place for environmentally preferable procurement of electronics (see model policy language)
  3. Must set specifications in contracts with vendors requiring that all electronic products in a specific category (PC/Displays, Imaging Equipment, and Televisions) achieve Bronze registration or higher in the EPEAT system in the country/countries of purchase (see model contract language)
  4. Must report annual purchase volume  of EPEAT registered products

Winners will be honored on Monday, May 23, during a ceremony in Washington DC. The Awards ceremony will be co-located with the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC) Summit at the Kellogg Conference Center and will take place immediately following the SPLC Pre-Summit Courses. All EPEAT Purchaser Award winners are invited to attend a brief reception before the ceremony, and then to participate in the ceremony itself.

For more information, and to apply, visit the EPEAT web site.

 

New ISTC Publication: “Reducing E-Waste Through Purchasing Decisions”

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), host agency for the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), recently announced the publication of a new research report (TR-061): “Reducing E-Waste Through Purchasing Decisions.” Delta Institute Logo

This research was conducted by the Delta Institute of Chicago, IL, with funding from ISTC’s sponsored research program.

Abstract: “Purchasing decisions made by companies for electronic office equipment, such as computers, printers, and fax machines, are often not made with the equipment end-of-life disposition in mind. Purchasing agents develop technical specifications for office equipment and make final purchasing decisions based on the needs of their users. The end result is that final disposition of this electronic waste, or e-waste, may sometimes be through the trash or through unchecked third party disposal companies which increases the potential for contaminants to enter the environment.

The Delta Institute, in consultation with the Green Electronics Council (GEC) – the program manager for the EPEAT® program – and the University of Illinois Survey Research Laboratory (SRL), worked on the project, Reducing E-waste through Purchasing Decisions, to identify opportunities and barriers for purchasing agents to include end-of-life decisions in the purchasing process and for asset managers to practice responsible recycling. Delta used a survey process, company interviews, and live and videotaped presentations with private companies to identify barriers and test strategies that can be used by private company purchasing agents and asset managers to facilitate recycling of electronic equipment.

Delta concluded that by far the two most prevalent and widespread barriers to using best management practices for purchasing and recycling of electronics were (1) a lack of awareness around electronics purchasing and recycling certifications and registries, and (2) persistent negative perceptions around electronic certifications and registries. Delta beta-tested on company representatives the effectiveness of two delivery methods designed to raise awareness and remove negative perceptions: a live educational presentation and a videotaped webinar. Results from the taped webinar were inconclusive. However, responses from the live presentation suggested that the presentation was successful at raising awareness and dispelling negative perceptions about electronics registrations and certifications to encourage their use. While it is hoped and anticipated that removal of these barriers led to increased recycling of electronics in participating companies, verification was beyond the scope of this study.”

For more ISTC publications, see http://www.istc.illinois.edu/info/library_clearinghouse.cfm.

Illini Gadget Garage Hours Set, Courses Begin

Illini Gadget Garage project team
Photo by Joyce Seay-Knoblauch. Pictured (left to right): William Bullock, professor of industrial design, Joy Scrogum, coordinator of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative, and Martin Wolske, research scientist and adjunct faculty member in library and information science.

In case you missed it, check out the UI News Bureau coverage of the Illini Gadget Garage project. Thanks to Jodi Heckel for helping spread the word!

As noted in this article, the Gadget Garage will open to the general campus community for repair assistance on Monday, September 14. Fall hours will be Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 2 to 6 p.m.

Professors Martin Wolske and William Bullock are also teaching courses associated with the Gadget Garage, with classes beginning this week. Professor Bullock’s class is a multidisciplinary effort with the following course objectives:

  • Collaborate with peers from business, design & technology in planning and startup
  • Experience project management, leadership and team building
  • Create a business and marketing plan to insure success going forward
  • Plan and implement new branding, advertising and wayfinding strategies
  • Participation in the iFixit Technical Writing Project (a unique portfolio piece)
  • Knowledge to create more sustainable designs and extend product life cycles

Professor Bullock is particularly interested in having students with interests in marketing and engineering participate alongside their peers from industrial design. A few seats are still available; interested students should see the course flyer and contact Professor Bullock directly with questions. Professor Wolske’s Introduction to Network Systems class will be meeting in the Gadget Garage space, and students will have opportunities to work on service learning projects associated with this project for the course.

See the Illini Gadget Garage page on the Sustainable Electronics Initiative web site for more information on the courses and the project itself, including a map of its location. General questions can be addressed to Joy Scrogum.

Illini Gadget Garage Discussion, Wednesday, August 5th

laptop and stethoscope
Photo by jfcherry on flickr. CC by 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Members of the UI sustainable electronics campus consortium and other interested parties are invited to attend a meeting at 11:30 AM on Wednesday, Aug. 5th at ISTC to learn more about and discuss the Illini Gadget Garage project. The project team will be meeting to discuss current progress (location, classes to be associated with the project, etc.) and next steps.  Anyone interested in learning more or providing feedback is welcome to attend. Feel free to bring lunch along with you. Because this meeting will involve a group discussion, rather than formal presentations, it will not be simultaneously broadcast as a webinar.

Funded by the Student Sustainability Committee, this project involves the establishment of a collaborative repair center on campus for student and staff-owned electronic devices. See http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/blog/2015/06/30/illini-gadget-garage-project-will-extend-useful-life-of-student-and-staff-electronics/ for further information. For those unable to attend, minutes will be posted to the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) web site. At any time, please feel free to contact Joy Scrogum with any questions about the project, or to discuss ways to become involved. A page devoted to the project will be added to the SEI web site in the near future.

ISTC Webinar: How Sustainable is Information Technology?

http://www.istc.illinois.edu/images/parts/ISTClogo.gifJoin SEI’s parent organization, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) for a webinar this Thursday, February 12, from 12:00 – 1:00 pm CST. Our presenter will be Eric Masanet – Morris E. Fine Junior Professor in Materials and Manufacturing and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Chemical and Biological Engineering, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, Northwestern University. Dr. Masanet will discuss How sustainable is information technology? Trends, challenges, and opportunities.

Abstract: The growing numbers of information technology (IT) devices—and the environmental impacts associated with their manufacture, use, and disposal—are topics that have received much attention in both the media and research communities. While the environmental footprint of IT devices is indeed significant, each new device generation typically brings substantial operational energy efficiency improvements. Furthermore, a singular focus on their direct impacts ignores the indirect environmental benefits that IT devices might provide by improving societal energy and resource efficiencies. A growing body of research suggests that such benefits might be substantial across the economy through such applications as replacing physical goods with digital services, building controls for energy efficiency, and real-time logistics optimization. This presentation will review the life-cycle impacts of IT systems, discuss trends in these impacts as a function of technology progress and growing consumption over time, and highlight the challenges and opportunities associated with managing and reducing the environmental impacts of IT systems moving forward.

Register for the webinar online at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7017258394988082434. This webinar will be broadcast live and also archived on our website at http://www.istc.illinois.edu/about/sustainability_seminars.cfm for later viewing.

To view details and registration information for other upcoming ISTC seminars please visit our calendar.