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This Interactive Map Illustrates Our E-Waste Problem

The mountain of waste is due to grow by one third by 2017, to 65.4 million tons.

[Image: Flickr user Keoni Cabral]

An interactive waste map created by a UN partnership shows that the developed world is exporting its electronic waste to poorer countries, often illegally, where it is then dumped in landfills.

Once tossed, the toxic elements inside goods like computers, cellphones, and electronic toys seep into the environment, polluting the air and water and making workers sick. While the body that compiled the report, the StEP Initiative, concedes that it is hard to grasp the sheer size of the problem due to a lack of comprehensive data, there are some shocking statistics hidden within:

  • The mountain of waste is due to grow by one third by 2017, to 65.4 million tons.
  • Last year, nearly 50 million tons of waste were created—around 7 kilos for every person on the planet.
  • One in three containers opened by Interpol's customs officials in Europe are found to contain illegal e-waste.
  • In 2012, China created 11.1 million tons of waste, just under 5 kilos per citizen.
  • The U.S. was the next biggest provider, with 10 million tons. Its per capita rate was 29.5 kilos.

Last month, MiT released a survey showing how much e-waste was recycled by U.S. citizens in 2010. Over 258 million items were tossed, with just two thirds of that being recycled. That year, just 120 million cellphones were collected, while in 2011, just 12 million cellphones were recycled.