The weight of electronic waste worldwide is expected to jump by a third to over 60 million tonnes annually by 2017, according to a new report.
E-waste includes end-of-life refrigerators, TVs, mobile phones, computers, monitors, e-toys and other products with a battery or electrical cord.
The report — based on data compiled by “Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) Initiative” — a partnership of UN organisations, industry, governments, non-government and science organisations — shows that in 2012 China and the United States produced the most e-waste.
While the study found that almost 48.9 million metric tonnes of used electrical and electronic products was produced last year — an average of 7kg for each of the world's seven billion people — experts predict this will rise to 65.4 million tonnes, or the weight equivalent of almost 200 Empire State Buildings, over the next five years.
The report also reveals that several emerging nations have surpassed Western nations in generating e-waste, with China putting the highest volume of e-waste on the market in 2012, at 11.1 million tonnes.
In terms of the amount of annually e-waste per person, the US was highest among major countries (and seventh overall) with each American responsible for an average 29.8 kg of hi-tech trash. That was almost six times higher than China’s per capita figure of 5.4 kg.
StEP initiative executive secretary Ruediger Kuehr said: "We believe that this constantly updated, map-linked database showing e-waste volume by country together with legal texts will help lead to better awareness and policy making at the public and private levels."