How Much ICT E-Waste?

Click on the "recycle" tag, above, and you will find all sorts of information about ICT's contribution to the global e-waste stream. Exactly how large is this contribution? It appears ICT gear only contributes about a quarter of the e-waste stream.

UN University's The Global E-Waste Monitor 2014 breaks down the total e-waste stream: "It is estimated that the total amount e-waste generated in 2014 was 41.8 million metric tonnes (Mt). It is forecasted to increase to 50 Mt of e-waste in 2018. This e-waste is comprised of 1.0 Mt of lamps, 6.3 Mt of screens, 3.0 Mt of small IT (such as mobile phones, pocket calculators, personal computers, printers, etc.), 12.8 Mt of small equipment (such as vacuum cleaners, microwaves, toasters, electric shavers, video cameras, etc.), 11.8 Mt of large equipment (such as washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, electric stoves, photovoltaic panels, etc.) and 7.0 Mt of cooling and freezing equipment (temperature exchange equipment)."

How much of this is ICT e-waste?

Only "6.3 Mt of screens, 3.0 Mt of small IT (such as mobile phones, pocket calculators, personal computers, printers, etc.)" seems to be clearly ICT e-waste. These 9.3 Mt are only 22% of that 41.8 Mt.

We classify media equipment (e.g., "video cameras") as ICT gear and we consider medical equipment ICT gear, too. But picking ICT equipment out of the other categories would likely not get the number much above 25%. So we are comfortable saying that ICT e-waste is about a quarter of the e-waste stream.

The UNU report does recognize that the categories are about to undergo a radical transformation: "…miniaturization and replacement, especially for information and communication technology (ICT) products and consumer equipment are fuelling the increase of e-waste. Moreover, more and more products contain a battery or plug, categorising it as EEE, such as intelligent clothes, smart toys and tools, dispensers and ubiquitous medical equipment."