E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams and it contains a large amount of used and end-of-life ICT equipment. It is estimated that each year, roughly 50 million tonnes of e-waste is generated globally. With improving technological innovations and a growing information society, this figure is expected to further increase. Currently, only a small amount of e-waste generated is collected through official channels—roughly 20%—which leads to a considerable amount of old equipment entering informal and rudimentary e-waste management techniques through illegal e-waste traffic.
Poor management of e-waste, including open burning and dumping, and acid baths, leads to environmental and human health impacts such as the release of ozone-depleting substances (Chlorofluorocarbons) and the supply of toxic chemicals into the food chain and into the air surrounding those working at e-waste dump sites. There is a need for capacity building in many aspects including e-waste measurement, statistics and data gathering, education about environmental and human health impacts, product design, supply chain management, strengthening legislation, policy and regulation, decent work and business competitiveness. Thus far, ITU’s approach has been to carry out capacity building in the area of collecting and improving e-waste statistics, developing guidelines, and policy and regulatory frameworks, as well as developing recommendations to reduce e-waste in the design of ICT equipment.