Every year, humanity generates tens of millions of tons of electronic waste, or e-waste — a veritable tsunami of toxic garbage that the United Nations has described as the world’s fastest-growing waste stream. Now, a new analysis has found that the world’s e-waste junkyards will be getting a slight reprieve due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As with other seemingly positive environmental side effects of the coronavirus, this one’s nothing to celebrate.
Global sales of electronics and electrical equipment took a hit during the first three quarters of 2020, according to a U.N. report published last week. As a result, more than 5 million tons of future e-waste were avoided during that time period. However, just as air pollution came roaring back as lockdowns eased and atmospheric carbon levels climbed to record highs despite a record drop in emissions last year, there are already signs that the e-waste slowdown will be temporary. Rather than indicating a shift toward a more sustainable relationship with our technology, the data highlights a worsening “digital divide” between technological haves and have-nots.
“It is a reduction, though it is not good for the world,”... Read more