October 14th is International E-Waste Day and the numbers look grim when it comes to certain categories of devices.
For this event, put together by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Forum, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) put together a report on the amount of e-waste discarded every year, focusing specifically on “invisible e-waste”.
What’s invisible e-waste? It’s the devices so small, so cheap, no one gives them a second thought, of which you probably have dozens in your house alone.
You could probably build a few Eiffel Towers from just disposable vapes, one of the worst inventions of mankind. The association found that the total weight of thrown away e-cig vapes roughly equals 6 Eiffel Towers. Considering disposable vapes often have rechargeable lithium batteries just like rechargeable vapes (think Juul) that are simply, well, blocked for recharging, this type of e-waste seems entirely preventable but, as it stands now, contributes to a serious source of pollution.
In the UK at least, where 138 million disposable vapes are sold every year, authorities are finally discussing banning disposable vapes, especially since they pose the serious risk of fires in recycling plants. Hopefully more countries will follow suit.
In total, the report found that “invisible e-waste” could fill “almost half a million 40 [metric ton] trucks.” Back to back, those trucks could create a jam that stretched for 3,504 miles, enough to cover the distance between Rome and Nairobi.
Worse off, some of the materials in that e-waste, including batteries, cables, mice, smoke sensors and so on, consists of essential raw materials worth around $10 billion per year.
Who are the countries with the most invisible e-waste?
The table has India at the very top, with 1240 million kilograms of e-waste of this type, surprisingly followed by France, with 169 million. Of course, these are numbers from the countries where the WEEE Forum has members and which have disclosed their stats, so it’s not a list of all the countries in the world.
Still, if you want to be horrified further, you can read Unitar’s full e-waste report here.