Study Finds Canada’s E-Waste Has Tripled

by | May 11, 2023

Large amounts of e-waste materials are piled together outside an orange bin.

(Credit: Canva Pro)

According to a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Waterloo, Canada’s electronic waste (e-waste) has more than tripled. Over the past two decades, the amount of e-waste has significantly increased, reaching close to a million tons in 2020 alone, creating a significant opportunity for manufacturers, recyclers, and communities to address the situation. 

The study provides the first comprehensive estimate of e-waste in Canada, shedding light on its lifecycle and the need for proactive management in the evolving electronics sector.

The research findings reveal that e-waste generation per person in Canada has increased from just more than 18 pounds in 2000 to nearly 56 pounds in 2020. This growth is attributed to consumer habits and the country’s growing population. As the number of businesses and households increases, so does consumption. 

Canada E-Waste in Excess

Large household appliances, such as refrigerators and washing machines, dominate the e-waste stream in terms of mass. However, when considering quantity, household lighting, toys and sports equipment, and information technology (IT)and telecommunications equipment, including cell phones and laptops, are the top contributors.

The rise in e-waste presents both challenges and opportunities for the recycling industry. The trend of producing lightweight IT and telecommunication equipment often leads to the dilution of precious and critical materials per product, which also poses challenges for recyclers to recover. Although these challenges are important to consider, the potential upside is the continuous operation of recycling industries and the opportunity for various recycling-related incentives.

The study emphasizes the importance of setting targets for e-waste reduction and recycling to recover valuable resources. Stakeholders, including electronic manufacturers and recyclers, can explore material and revenue generation opportunities from e-waste, such as urban mining and future extractions of critical materials.

While recycling and material recovery is important, the researchers highlight the need for improved repair, refurbishment, and product life extension opportunities. Shifting the focus towards these areas, in addition to recycling, can contribute to more sustainable e-waste management practices.

To better inform sustainable management practices, the researchers emphasize the importance of assessing consumer behavior data to create a more accurate and complete picture of e-waste management in Canada.

Electronic Waste Management on a Global Scale

Globally, the electronic waste management market is projected to reach $108 billion by 2027, with a compound annual growth rate of 12.6% from 2022 to 2027, according to a report by Research and Markets. Effective e-waste management is crucial due to the hazardous substances present in electronic devices, as well as the valuable materials that can be recovered through recycling. Improper disposal of e-waste can lead to environmental pollution and health risks. Therefore, it is imperative for countries to implement e-waste collection and recycling programs to ensure proper disposal and ethical recycling practices.

As electronic equipment production continues to accelerate globally, electronic waste generation is expected to increase significantly. It is essential to manage e-waste effectively to mitigate the environmental and public health risks associated with improper disposal. Recycling electronic waste not only helps conserve energy and natural resources but also prevents the release of toxic and hazardous materials into the environment.

The findings of the University of Waterloo study highlight the need for proactive policies to address the growing e-waste problem across Canada. However, these measures are important considerations on a global scale.

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