E-Waste Reaches Record Levels; Recycling Struggles to Keep Pace

Apr 3, 2024

Amount of E-Waste Generated and Collected

Here's news that might make you rethink buying a new laptop (but you probably still need one to stay current with technology): the world is making too much electronic waste. This is according to a new United Nations (UN) report.  

The Global E-Waste Monitor 2024 report from UNITAR is out. UNITAR is the UN’s Institute for Training and Research. Its report shows how much electronic waste we're creating. In 2022, we threw away 62 million tons of electronics. This includes things like computers, smartphones, microwaves, and TVs. Out of all that, only 22.3% was recycled properly. 

UNITAR said the amount of electronic waste is growing five times faster than the amount we're recycling. This is because of new technology, people buying more, products breaking quickly, and more electronics being used. There are also not enough recycling programs. 

Environmentalists found the report alarming. Jim Puckett, who started a group that keeps an eye on e-waste, talked to CNN. He blames the companies that make these products. He says they don't try to make products that last; they'd rather just sell us new ones quickly. 

E-waste is bad for the environment. It can have dangerous things like mercury and lead in it. But there is some good news: the e-waste from 2022 contains $91 billion in valuable metals. This includes gold, copper, and lithium. If we get better at recycling, we can recover those valuable metals from the waste. 

So, as the saying goes, one person's trash can be another person's treasure. 

Reflect: Think about the electronic devices you use most often. What materials were used to create them?

Based on the information in the infographic, which region of the world generates the LEAST amount of e-waste? (Common Core RI.5.7; RI.6.7)
a. Europe
b. Asia
c. Americas
d. Africa
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