Slump in electronics sales due to pandemic could help tackle e-waste

The covid-19 pandemic has caused a slump in the sale of electronic devices and a resulting fall in electronic waste, UN researchers have found. This may offer governments an opportunity to improve e-waste recycling, but the decline in sales has mostly affected poorer countries, which could widen the digital divide.

In 2019, the global population created 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste – discarded electronics that contain toxic substances such as brominated flame retardants, lead and mercury. East and South-East Asia accounted for over 22 million tonnes of this waste, while Europe and North America generated slightly less than 20 million tonnes.

Despite an increase in sales of devices like laptops and games consoles driven by home working and demand for entertainment during isolation and quarantine, the sale of electronic equipment worldwide decreased by 6.4 per cent in the first nine months of 2020 compared with sales estimates based on previous years.

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