A new report spells out the urgent need for circular economy systems that can reverse current e-waste trends.

The Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) and the UN E-Waste Coalition released a report at Davos today revealing that, if left unchecked, e-waste production worldwide will hit 120 million tonnes annually by 2050. To put that in context, today the figure is 50 million tonnes, which is heavier than all the commercial airlines ever built. Right now only 20% of it is being properly recycled, with much of it ending up in landfill, contaminating soil and water, so something has to change. Taking up the challenge, Nigeria’s government, along with the Global Environment Facility and UN Environment, announced today $2-million of investment to launch an e-waste recycling industry in the country. It is expected the initial investment will attract another $13 million in ‘co-financing from the private sector’. The money will be used to ensure the 100,000 people in Nigeria working informally in the e-waste industry become part of a new and formal system designed to ensure both their safety and access to fair employment conditions. With 500,000 tonnes of e-waste thrown away in the country every year, the goal is to maximise its ‘latent value’. This could be by advancing solutions including ‘urban mining’ – where valuable metals and minerals are extracted from e-waste, or the promotion of ‘buy-back and return systems for used electronics’.


“A circular economy brings with it tremendous environmental and economic benefits for us all,” said Joyce Msuya UN Environment Acting Executive Director. “UN Environment is proud to support this innovative partnership with the Government of Nigeria and the Global Environment Facility and support the country’s efforts to kick start a circular electronics system. Our planet’s survival will depend on how well we retain the value of products within the system by extending their life.”