Humans left behind a record amount of e-waste in 2019

Illegal e-waste dumping grounds in Yuen Long. [No. 3] . 09JUL16 SCMP/ Bruce Yan

Illegal e-waste dumping grounds in Yuen Long, Hong Kong. | Photo by Bruce Yan / South China Morning Post via Getty Images

2019 set a record for the amount of e-waste ever generated worldwide: 53.6 million metric tons of discarded phones, computers, appliances, and other gadgets. That’s more than the combined weight of all the adults in Europe. It’s also a 21 percent increase since 2014, according to a new international report.

Just 17 percent of that waste was officially recycled, the report finds. The vast majority of it was either sent to a landfill, incinerated, or vanished somewhere into the bureaucratic ether when officials lost track of it. The report was meant to document global progress on getting a handle on e-waste, authors of the paper say. Instead, they found that the world has backtracked.

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Author: Justine Calma