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Microwave mountains formed by e-waste

electronicwasteA record amount of electrical and electronic waste last year was added to the growing mountains of global e-waste.

According to the UN, of the 41.8 million tonnes of discarded goods 60% were microwaves, fridges, washing machines, dishwashers, and small kitchen, bathroom and laundry appliances. Only 7% consisted of mobile phones, personal computers and printers.

That’s the equivalent of 1.15m heavy trucks, forming a queue 23,000km long, according to the report.

Less than one-sixth of all this e-waste was property recycled. Waste which could have been recovered and recycled was worth $52bn, including 300 tonnes of gold – equal to 11% of the world’s gold production in 2013.

Calculated per person, the largest amount of e-waste was found in Norway (28.4kg per head), Switzerland (26.3kg), Iceland (26kg) and Denmark (24kg).

The report was not shy in noting that these are countries which are all known for their consciousness of the environment.

Britain’s 23.5kg put it in fifth position while the US (22kg) was in the ninth place.

Unsurprisingly, Africa’s tiny 1.7kg per person was the lowest in the world, but cumulatively it amounted to 1.9 million tonnes of waste.

In terms of volume, however, the most waste was found in the US and China, accounting together for 32% of the total, followed by Japan, Germany and India.

Buried in the waste was 2.2m tonnes of harmful lead compounds, as well as mercury, cadmium and chromium, and 4,400 tonnes of ozone-harming chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases.

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