Infographic: Where’s the E-Waste Going?

A good year for the electronics industry means more products made and sold. We all celebrate. At the same time, we need to be thinking about where the devices being thrown out and replaced are actually going.

Everything from cars and refrigerators to cellphones and gadgets are littering landfills all over the globe. The organization Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) estimates that, worldwide, by the end of 2017 end-of-life electronics, including refrigerators, TVs, mobile phones, computers, monitors, e-toys, and other products with a battery or electrical cord would comprise enough volume to fill a line of 40-ton trucks end-to-end on a highway straddling three quarters of the equator. Over five years, that's a 33 percent jump, the organization said.

As an industry, it's time to get a handle on the question of product lifecycle, from cradle to grave. Jane Nishida, acting assistant administrator at the US-EPA Office of International and Tribal Affairs, said in a StEP press release:

EPA partnered with the United Nations University's Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP) Initiative understanding that the growing e-waste problem can only be addressed effectively when we have better information on the global flows of used electronics. We are pleased that StEP, working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the National Center for Electronics Recycling, was able to deliver a report that provides a scientific-based approach to generating information on US exports of used electronics.

Take a look at this infographic from Good for an eye-opening look at just how big a problem this is. What's the role of the supply chain in tackling this growing issue?

To read more about product design for the environment in the electronics industry, read our new Velocity e-Mag titled The Sustainability Balancing Act.

25 comments on “Infographic: Where’s the E-Waste Going?

  1. prabhakar_deosthali
    May 9, 2014

    The regulatory authorities for the electronics products worldwide have to take this e0waste problem into account.

    Instead of looking at this e0waste problem from the outside, we must make it mandatary for all the design and manufactruing companies to address this problem from inside out whic means –

    1. Use bio-degradable materials as far as possible.

    2. Have a product life cycle management plan where the e-waste recycling process is defined right in the design and manufactruing phase.



  2. SP
    May 9, 2014

    E-waste is a monstorous problem that is just right in front of us and going to grow bigger and bigger as no proper recycling setups are in place. In countries like India people just dont think twice to throw e-waste along with organic waste and everything ends up in the landfills and with real estate getting better , even landfills are protesting that enough dumping.

    In case of e-waste it will be solved only if mfr.s set up recycling plants and set up a strong collection mechanism.

  3. Susan Fourtané
    May 10, 2014


    “In case of e-waste it will be solved only if mfr.s set up recycling plants and set up a strong collection mechanism.” 

    Not only if manufacturers set up recycling plants, but also if electronics designers start designing environmentally friendly products. Changing design is the first step. Materials and energy currently used must be re-evaluated.

    All components that pollute the environment must be reduced. Batteries are a big problem. What about using more solar energy, for example? There are a lot of things that can be done to reduce the consequences of producing the current amount of eWaste  


  4. Susan Fourtané
    May 10, 2014


    “1. Use bio-degradable materials as far as possible.

    2. Have a product life cycle management plan where the e-waste recycling process is defined right in the design and manufactruing phase.”

    Exactly. Something similar I replied to SP below. 🙂 Rather than only worrying about eWaste when the damage has been done it's better to start attacking the problem since the beginning, starting with designing better, more environmentally conscious. And, using renewable energy as much as possible. 


  5. _hm
    May 10, 2014

    I believe in mentoring and educating common person in general.

    Many a time one is in a position to easily influence many other person. This can be very good opportunity to mentor and educate to reduce all waste – ewaste and others too.


  6. Adeniji Kayode
    May 12, 2014

    @ prabhakar,  

    I agree with you on that. If the manufacturing companies would provide of retrieving E waste and make it known to the public, im sure the public would do their parts in controlling E wasts.

  7. Adeniji Kayode
    May 12, 2014


    You are right, its a major issue in most developing countries.

    Most developing countries serve as dumping ground for e waste from most part of the world.

  8. Adeniji Kayode
    May 12, 2014


    You are right on that, public enlightenment is another good way to tackle E waste.

  9. _hm
    May 12, 2014

    @Adeniji: Yes, I get my mentoring from my family Physician. We do talk about it and follow-up after three to six months that we do obey the same.


  10. ahdand
    May 13, 2014

    @_hm: That is a good practice. Indeed will help you in the longer run since that will make sure that you are in good condition.  

  11. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    May 13, 2014

    I do think that sustainability has to be a consideration from the very begining–and it has to touch all areas of the product and supply chain. It's about what is made, how it is made, how it is packaged, how it is transportated, how long it lasts, what you do with it once you are done. It's very complicated. I”m glad we're getting the conversatoin going.

  12. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    May 13, 2014

    @SP and Susan, repairability and robustness are critical components of this as well. If products are built to last and easy to repair, they will be kept out of the landfill longer. We also have to change the minds of consumers. Today, most product users are afraid to try and fix their own products. is tyring to help change that by publishing step by step directions on how to fix a variety of cell phones.

  13. ITempire
    May 15, 2014

    Pollution generated by the waste created by electronic products is really hazardous to health. The only thing can reduce this e-waste is to make people aware of utilizing those defected products through recycling.

  14. Susan Fourtané
    May 17, 2014


    That's a great Website. Thanks for posting the link. Recycling is also a good alternative. 


  15. Adeniji Kayode
    May 17, 2014

    @Hailey, you are right on that, most of the western countries do not believe much in repairing old or faulty electronics and that is why some other countries are dumping grounds for old or faulty gadgets. Moreover, respectable manufacturers make electronics that would last but not for ever because it would affect their sales and then discoveries are been made every day

  16. Eldredge
    May 28, 2014

    @Hailey – This is a good reason to value product reliability over flashy options. Unfortunately, that probably is not the best model from a manufacturers viwpoint.

  17. ahdand
    May 28, 2014

    @eldredge: Yes that has been a viewpoint of one sector isn't it but just think if its been a failure will it be possible for them to survive for so long ?

  18. Eldredge
    May 29, 2014

    @nimantha.d – Good point. There will always be a market for appliances and hardware that have all of the options and conveniences, targeted to those who have the means to repair or replace them as required.

  19. itguyphil
    May 29, 2014

    Not to mention the one's that can be recycled… for profit.

  20. Eldredge
    May 29, 2014

    @pocharle – Another good point….Maybe I can affornd to enter the market, and purchase a recycled appliance.


  21. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    May 30, 2014

    @eldredge: If cosumers started making long product life and repairabilty a key buying consideration, the manufacturers would come along!

  22. itguyphil
    May 30, 2014

    As long as it works, what's the concern. Most usually have a limited warranty too.

  23. Eldredge
    May 30, 2014

    @Hailey – Probably true, but it seems like that would be a major paradigm shift at the consumer level, starting with a willingness to pay higher prices for those product qualities. I think there is a segment of the consumer base that would be willing to do that, but not a majority.

  24. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    May 30, 2014

    @Eldredge, this generation of consumers certainly isn't willing to pay the premium. I wonder if the next generation, though, will be more concernd about the enviroment and have more investment in protecting it. They may use an entirely different measuring stick.

  25. Eldredge
    May 30, 2014

    @Hailey – If they are given options (or push for them), perhaps the next generation would place more of a premium on longevity/repairability, or at least provide the emphasis and incentives on recycling these productx when they expire.

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