E-Waste Recycling Facts & Figures


Small businesses produce a fraction of the electronic waste that the world must manage, compared to the multinational corporations. However, as ecological destruction continues to grow, small businesses can and should be part of the solution to global waste processing.

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Here are some useful facts and figures about e-waste Recycling. These numbers will inspire small and large business owners to make improvements in the way they handle waste.

Electronics: The Cost

It takes at most 1.5 tonnes of water, 48 pounds worth of chemicals and 530 tons of fossil fuels to make a computer.

Reusing or recycling computers is a better option than disposing of them in landfills or incinerators. It can generate 296 additional jobs per year for every 10,000 tonnes of computer waste.

Despite high-value materials like copper and gold, only 20% of electronic waste has been documented as being collected and recycled.

An estimated $55 billion worth of electronic waste material is thrown away annually by Americans, more than many other countries’ 2019 Gross Domestic Product.

Recycling 1,000,000 cell phones can yield more than 35,000 lbs of copper, 33 lbs of palladium and 772 lb of silver as well as 75 lb of gold.

If e-waste is released into the environment in excess, it could cause serious damage to blood, kidneys, central and peripheral nervous system, and human blood.

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E-Waste Globally

Worldwide e-waste production is expected to reach 50 million tonnes by 2020. Annual growth rates of between 4% & 5% are possible.

This includes 16.8 millions metric tonnes of small equipment, 9.1 million tons of large equipment, 7.6 million tons temperature exchange (freezing or cooling) equipment, 6.6 million tons screens and monitors, 3.9 million tons of small IT equipment and 0.7 million tons lamps.

UN agencies joined hands with the World Economic Forum and the Global Environment Facility to demand an overhaul of the electronic system.

A total of 67 countries have laws in place to address the e-waste that they produce.

Japan produced 2,139 kilotonnes e-waste. Only 26% was collected.

Each Japanese resident disposed of 16.9 kg of electronic waste per capita, which is less than the averages in the USA and UK (19.4 kg and 24.9kg per person respectively), but much higher than the Asian per-capita average of 4.2kg.

The Nigerian Government, UN Environment and the Global Environment Facility announced a $15 million initiative to launch a circular ewaste system in Nigeria in 2019.

Global e-waste will grow by approximately 8% annually.

About 40% of the e-waste generated in Europe, America, Canada and Europe is exported to Asia. This trade flow is controversial.

E-waste may contain up to 7% of the world’s gold. There is 100 times more gold in an e-waste tonne than in an e-waste tonne.

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E-waste in the U.S.

In 2019, Americans spent $71 Billion on communication and telephone equipment, nearly five times the amount they spent in 2010, even after inflation was adjusted.13

The average American household now has 24 electronic products

Only 19 states have laws that prohibit electronics from regular trash. Electronics often end up in the garbage or recycling bins of states that don’t have such laws, like Nevada.

One million laptop computers can be recycled to save enough energy for 3,500 homes in the United States for a year.

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Every person in the United States and Canada produces approximately 20kg of electronic waste annually.