Why does the issue of e-waste continue to be a global challenge despite international efforts to address it?

Why does the issue of e-waste continue to be a global challenge despite international efforts to address it?


HEJSupport contributed to the session on Addressing E-Waste through Tracking, Traceability and Circular Approach organized as part of the Third Global Session of the UN Science Policy Business Forum on the Environment.

The session was held on February 18, 2021. The following questions were addressed.

E-waste has been an issue of concern for a number of years. Why does it continue to be a problem despite numerous efforts by governments, industry, civil society and international organizations?
What are the main drivers of e-waste for becoming a global environmental challenge?
What policies and regulatory mechanisms are best suited to tackle e-waste? How to deal with the informal sector and informal practices to manage e-waste?
How does the sustainable management of e-waste contribute to the circular economy? How to avoid the loss of valuable resources contained in e-waste?
Can regional cooperation provide solutions to support developing countries lacking capacities for dealing with e-waste?
What role industry can play in dealing with e-waste in a sustainable way? Are there innovative solutions to e-waste from the manufacturing /design perspective?

In her interventions, Olga Speranskaya, HEJSupport Co-director noted the following issues that need to be addressed to tackle the e-waste crisis efficiently:

Reduce/eliminate e-products designed for single-use;

Extend the upgradeability of storage components to offer software support and updates for longer;

Minimize and eventually eliminate the use of materials that are hard or impossible to recycle such as, for example, fiberglass in computer monitors or PVC in cables and wires.

Ensure transparency, and traceability of information about chemicals of concern in electronics throughout the product lifecycle as it will be a step towards preventing the presence of these chemicals in products and in waste and will contribute to a safe and toxic -free circular economy.

Producers should disclose information about toxic chemicals in electronic products, take the responsibilities of recycling them in a proper way and ensure that electronic waste and obsolete electronic products are not dumped in countries where they cannot be recycled safely.

The lack of generally accepted and harmonised principles for the regulation of hazardous substances in electronics results in different waste management policies.

There are some regional and national legislations that aim to limit the use of certain hazardous substances in electronic products and reduce waste-management concerns. However, many low and middle -income countries lack such regulations or their enforcement.

There is the need for helping countries to address the issue, including through putting in place common standards that offer high protection to human health and the environment, and level playing fields.

In conclusion:  an efficient e-waste management is based on government commitment; regulatory requirements and enforcement; a social orientation towards separate waste collection; and environment and health protection through safe toxic-free product design and transparency of chemical information.

Watch HEJSupport Co-Director Olga Speranskaya`s statement here

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Written by Olga Speranskaya