Waste from electrical and electronic equipment

Electronic equipments have become an increasingly important part and parcel of our everyday life. The associated amount of E-waste, fostered by rapid technical innovation, is steadily growing globally, reaching 41.8 million metric tons in 2014.

Only a limited number of countries have a national E-waste legislation. Despite these legislations, E-waste is still often not segragated from other types of waste. As a result, open burning and illegal dumping remain dominant practices.

Open burning of E-waste releases a number of harmful substances (including dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals) into the atmosphere. In addition, hazardous substances such as lead and mercury may also leak from discarded and illegally dumped E-waste and contaminate the nearby surface and groundwater. The most triggering consequence of unsound management of E-waste is that it dramatically affects the health of workers in the informal recylcing sector.

At the same time, E-waste contains various valuable materials that, if properly recovered, have a potential for promoting a green economy through reduced exploitation of natural resources and energy and lower emissions of greenhouse gases, thereby reducing negative social and environmental impacts. 

The intrinsic material value of global e-waste was estimated to be 48 billion euro in 2014.

Workers at a e-waste dumpsite in Ghana. Photo: UNEP/K. Loeffelbein


IETC has undertaken efforts to assist national and local governments and other stakeholders to develop and implement strategies and policies toward the environmentally sound management of E-wastes. This support is provided through developing guidance and conducting training activities. Some of the guidance documents developed by the UN Environment include E-waste Inventory Assessment Manual, E-Waste Management Manual, E-waste “Take Back System”, Compendium of Technologies for the Recovery of Materials from WEEE/E-Waste, and Study on E-waste management in Association of Southeast Asian Nations.  

Used PCBs, Agbogbloshie. Photo: Fairphone/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

E-Waste Summary: United Nations System-wide Response to Tackling E-waste







E-Waste manuals 

One of the concrete outcomes of IETC's knlowledge-based action is the release of two manuals on how to handle E-Waste.

  • E-Waste Vol. 1: Inventory Assessment Manual, 2007

This first volume of E-waste manual aims to build the capacity of practitioners and policy makers for preparing WEEE/E-waste inventories. The objective of the manual is to identify E-waste as an environmental issue and to quantify it. It summarizes the available legislation on WEEE/E-waste in different countries and provides a methodology to design and use E-waste inventory assessment studies/projects. Furthermore, the E-waste management chain (starting from electrical and electronic equipment manufacture, production, import, consumption, E-waste generation, treatment and disposal) has been discussed to identify the "mechanism of trading" and related socio-economic and environmental risks. Methodologies for E-waste inventory assessment in a city/geographical area/country have been elaborated with reference to developing countries. The manual also provides case studies from developing countries.


  • E-Waste Vol. 2: E-waste Management Manual, 2007

This manual aims to build the capacity of practitioners and policy makers for preparing and developing WEEE/E-waste management systems. It summarizes current practices in developed and developing countries on WEEE/E-waste management, the technologies for E-waste management (collection, transportation, treatment and disposal) and the important pre-requisites for effective and sustainable WEEE/E-waste management. A conceptual approach for developing regulatory systems for E-waste management has been provided for policy makers. Current practices for E-waste management have been reviewed from developed and developing countries. Financial viability of E-waste management has been discussed for effective and sustainable E-waste management. A case study from a developing country, which describes each aspect of E-waste management including techno-economic feasibility of establishing E-waste treatment facility is also presented.


Waste Management in ASEAN countires


The Basel Convention

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was adopted on 22 March 1989 by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Basel, Switzerland, in response to a public outcry following the discovery, in the 1980s, in Africa and other parts of the developing world of deposits of toxic wastes imported from abroad.

The Basel Convention started to address e-waste issues since 2002 which include, among others, environmentally sound management; prevention of illegal traffic to developing countries and; building capacity around the globe to better manage e-waste. 


For more information, please contact UN Environment-IETC's Focal Point on E-Waste:
Mr. Iyngararasan Mylvakanam