How E-waste Data Contribute to the SDGs

In September 2015, the United Nations and all member states adopted the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and identified 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets for ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all over a 15-year span. Increasing levels of e-waste, improper and unsafe treatment, and disposal through incineration or in landfills pose significant challenges to the environment, human health, and to the achievement of the SGDs.

Progress towards attaining the SDGs and their 169 targets are measured by indicators and official statistics. Several targets and indicators are defined or are currently in the process of being measured as part of monitoring progress. Per target, a custodian agency, or agencies, have been defined to guide the process.

E-waste management closely relates to many SDGs, such as SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth, SDG 3 on good health and well-being, SDG 6 on clean waste and sanitation, and SDG 14 on life below water. In particular, given the high raw material demand for the production of EEE, e-waste also closely relates to the SDG indicators on the material footprint (SDGs 8.4.1 and 12.1.1) and the SDGs on the domestic material consumption (SDGs 8.4.2 and 12.2.2). Relatively general indicators are being used to measure progress towards these SDGs. By contrast, for e-waste, a more specific sub-indicator has been recognised for monitoring growth in the waste stream, which is of particular concern due to both its potential hazardousness and its high residual value.

E-waste has been officially included in the work plan for the 12.5.1 SDG indicator and in the documentation around the indicator.(3) The importance of considering e-waste is discussed further in SDG indicator 12.4.2 on hazardous waste.

Target 11.6: By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities by paying special attention to air quality as well as municipal and other waste management.

Since over half of the world’s population lives in cities, rapid urbanization requires new solutions to address rising environmental and human health risks, especially in densely populated areas. Most e-waste will be generated in cities, and it is particularly important to properly manage e-waste in urban areas, improve collection and recycling rates, and reduce the amount of e-waste that ends up in dumpsites. The move towards smart cities and the use of ICTs for waste management offer new and exciting opportunities.

Indicator 11.6.1: Percentage of urban solid waste regularly collected and with adequate final discharge with regard to the total waste generated by the city.

Target 12.4: By 2030, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all waste throughout the life cycle, in accordance with agreed-upon international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release into air, water, and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment.

Indicator 12.4.2: Treatment of waste, generation of hazardous waste, and hazardous waste management, by type of treatment.

Target 12.5: By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, repair, recycling, and reuse.

An increasing number of people on the planet are consuming growing amounts of goods, and it is critical to make production and consumption more sustainable by raising awareness levels of producers and consumers, specifically in the area of electrical and electronic equipment.

Indicator 12.5.1 National recycling rate and tons of material recycled.

SDG 12.5.1 National recycling rate and tons of material recycled (e-waste sub-indicator)

The e-waste sub-indicator in SDG 12.5.1 has been defined as:  SDG 12.5.1 Sub-indicator on e-waste = Total e-waste recycled / Total e-waste generated

Where the “Total e-waste recycled” is equivalent to the “E-waste formallycollected”, which is defined in E-Waste Statistics Guidelines (Forti, Baldé,and Kuehr 2018) as the amount of e-waste that is collected as such bythe formal collection system. The “e-waste generated” is defined as theamount of discarded electrical and electronic products (e-waste) due to consumption within a national territory in a given reporting year, prior to any collection, reuse, treatment, or export.
For methodology and datasets, the custodian agencies UNEP and UNSD use the datasets and methodologies developed by SCYCLE, the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership, and the Partnership Measuring ICT for Development. With the current data, the SDG 12.5.1 sub-indicator on the e-waste recycling rate is 17.4% for 2019.