It is evident that electronic devices offer a universe of development opportunities in practically all areas of society. Nevertheless, and despite the fact that there are now voices arguing along these lines, this new environment being created by technology also demands a rethinking of our current production system and our consumption models, in which recycling and environmental awareness must play a key role.

A priority within this rethinking process is to create a circular economy in which waste ceases to be considered a problem and is treated as a valuable resource that enables the prevention of overexploitation of resources, protection of the environment and our health, and the creation of quality employment.

Ultimately, the goal is to convert waste into another instrument that contributes to achieving the UN 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals. The task is even more urgent in the case of electronic waste, bearing in mind that this stream is growing three times faster than other waste streams. Like fast food and fast fashion, there are now extremely high rates of consumption and replacement of technology. For instance, it is estimated that next year, there will be a minimum of 25 billion devices connected to the internet; a staggering figure. A major contribution to this scenario is the degree of maturity of technological production in Asian countries, at increasingly affordable prices.

But, in allusion to the old saying, let us not allow the trees to prevent us from seeing the wood. I am referring to the fact that this number of devices, triple that of the world population, will bring with it opportunities for socioeconomic development. There is no doubt about that but it will also have an important impact on the environment.

To give another example, according to the report entitled ‘A New Circular Vision for Electronics – Time for a Global Reboot’, presented in Davos last January by the UN, the World Economic Forum and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), emissions associated with the production and use of electronic equipment will account for 14% of total global emissions by 2040. That is half the current emissions of the world transport sector. Added to this is the environmental impact caused by the lack of adequate treatment or irregular management of this equipment at the end of its service life. And the fact is that recycling rates for this type of waste worldwide are still very low.

According to the United Nations University (UNU) Global E-waste Monitor 2017, around 50 million tonnes of electronic waste is produced every year and only 20% is recycled. The remaining 80% is landfilled, incinerated or illegally commercialised and treated.


FEnviro Julio19-Recyclia-2

José Pérez, CEO at Recyclia

Published in: Nº62 FuturENVIRO July 2019