A terrible waste

E-Waste includes almost any household or business item containing circuitry or electrical components with either power or battery supply.

Although e-waste is a general term, it can be considered to denote items such as TV appliances, computers, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, white goods - for example, fridges, washing machines, dryers - home entertainment and stereo systems, toys, toasters and kettles.

Everyone knows there is a problem. But Step proposes the solution!

What is e-waste?

The term "e-waste" is an abbreviation of "electronic waste". A key part of the definition is the word "waste" and what it logically implies – that the item has no further use and is rejected as useless or excess to the owner in its current condition.

The definition of e-waste that has been agreed by Step is:

"E-Waste is a term used to cover items of all types of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and its parts that have been discarded by the owner as waste without the intention of re-use."

A full Step White Paper defining the meaning of e-waste was published by Step on 2nd June 2014 and can be accessed by clicking here.

Rapid product innovations and replacement - especially in ICT and office equipment - combined with the migration from analogue to digital technologies and to flat-screen TVs and monitors - are fuelling the increase. Additionally, economies of scale have given way to lower prices for many electrical goods, which has increased global demand for many products that eventually end up as e-waste. 

Why is so much e-waste unaccounted for?

The US-EPA has estimated a 5% to 10% global increase in the generation of e-waste each year.

Astoundingly, this finding demonstrates that there is no scientific data available to explain where over 6 million tonnes of e-waste goes each and every year. Clearly, it does not simply disappear into thin air!

So why is so much e-waste unaccounted for?

We don’t really know for sure. But enough is known to suggest a few explanations, such as illegal shipments to developing countries like China and India; domestic 'informal' processing centres; as well as the e-waste that remains in the sheds, attics and storage rooms of sentimental owners!

The great global challenge

The e-waste problem is of global concern because of the nature of production and disposal of waste in a globalized world.

  •  It is difficult to quantify global e-waste amounts, but we do know that large volumes end up in places where processing occurs at a very rudimentary level 
  • This raises concerns about resource efficiency and also the immediate concerns of the dangers to humans and the environment