Which country produces the most e-waste?

Monday, 30 January, 2023

Which country produces the most e-waste?

A study by Uswitch analysed data from the Global E-waste monitor 2020 and revealed the countries that produce the most e-waste, with Australia ranking fifth.

When it comes to e-waste, mobile phones fall under the category “IT and telecoms”, alongside items such as laptops, tablet computers and fax machines. These items produced 36,681 tonnes of household waste in 2021, a 15% increase on 2020. However, this figure may be a slight misrepresentation as the amount of electronic waste dropped drastically following the coronavirus pandemic.

Smartphones contribute to this and it is estimated that each smartphone produces 93 kg of CO2 in its lifetime, which is a significant amount when considering the billions of smartphones being used every day.

Since records began in 2008, there was a 173% increase in the amount of electronic waste between then and 2016. In the following years, this started to tail off; however, there are signs that e-waste has started to rise again.

In total, IT and telecoms e-waste has increased by 98% between 2008 and 2022. If this trend continues in the future, around 55,000 tonnes could be generated annually by 2030. Not only does this mean that the number of toxic materials being released into the atmosphere would be at an all-time high, but also that vast amounts of precious metals such as gold, silver, copper, platinum and aluminium would be thrown away and wasted.

Which countries produce the most e-waste?

Rank Country Region National e-waste legislation/policy or regulation in place E-waste generated (kt) E-waste generated per capita (kg)
1 Norway Europe Yes 139 26.0
2 United Kingdom Europe Yes 1598 23.9
3 Switzerland Europe Yes 201 23.4
4 Denmark Europe Yes 130 22.4
5 Australia Oceania Yes 554 21.7
6 Netherlands Europe Yes 373 21.6
7 Iceland Europe Yes 8 21.4
8 France Europe Yes 1362 21.0
8 United States Americas Yes 6918 21.0
10 Belgium Europe Yes 234 20.4
10 Japan Asia Yes 2569 20.4

Norway is the country that produces the most e-waste but has taken steps to improve its e-waste management through a ‘take back’ scheme for companies that produce electrical or electronic equipment and batteries.

The UK sits second to Norway in generating e-waste, but is estimated to be first by 2024.

Switzerland is third, and similarly to Norway, has a ‘take-back’ scheme in place to combat the issue. It is also at the forefront of trying to prevent the illegal export of e-waste.

Image credit: iStock.com/cyano66

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