E-waste heavier than 200 Empire State Buildings

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

e-waste cords
A bunch of junk that contributes to e-waste piles.

Did you ever wonder what happens to your old electronic device after getting an upgrade to the latest model? More times than not, outdated electronics like TVs, refrigerators, and cell phones end up as e-waste – any trashed item that contains an electronic cord or battery. Unfortunately, that e-waste is growing globally according to a United Nations organization called Solving the Electronic Waste Problem (StEP).

An interactive map released from StEP demonstrated how much e-waste is produced by country. Sadly, the United States tops the list with 9.4 million tons of e-waste per year. Coming in second place is China, with 7.3 million tons per year. Overall, humans produced 53.9 millions tons of e-waste by the end of 2012.

However, the world is expected to produce 65.4 million tons of e-waste by the end of 2014, which is a 33% jump from 2012. Just to give you an idea of how much trash that is, the combined weight would be equal to about 200 Empire State Buildings. Or, as StEP outlines in their statement: “By 2017, all of that year’s end-of-life refrigerators, TVs, mobile phones, computers, monitors, e-toys and other products with a battery or electrical cord worldwide could fill a line of 40-ton trucks end-to-end on a highway straddling three quarters of the Equator.” That is not a pretty picture.

While the numbers could definitely be a lot lower, StEP is encouraging the world to keep up with their e-waste recycling programs. For example, according to a 2010 study from MIT and the US National Center for Electronics Recycling, 258.2 million units were collected to be recycled, and around 9% were exported to other countries.

The StEP initiative hopes their map will motivate the globe to develop better recycling habits.

Featured image courtesy of George Hotelling on Flickr. Image of e-waste cords courtesy of Alex Proimos on Wikimedia.