Canada’s Electronic Waste More than Tripled in Last 20 Years, Expected to Keep Increasing

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The University of Waterloo has conducted a study that shows Canada’s electronic waste has more than tripled in the last 20 years and is expected to keep increasing. It takes a look a data from as far back as 1971 and researchers found that in 2020, Canadians produced nearly one million tonnes of electronic waste.

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Waterloo which is a comprehensive estimate of e-waste in Canada found that electronic waste has more than tripled in the last 20 years and is expected to keep increasing. This waste includes discarded electronic products such as computers, televisions, cell phones, consumer goods like electronic toys and household lighting, and large household appliances such as refrigerators or washing machines.

It was found that the amount of e-waste generated per person went from 8.3 kilograms in 2000 to 25.3 kilograms in 2020. There was nearly one million tonnes of e-waste produced in 2020 by Canadians and this number is expected to reach 1.2 million tonnes annually by 2030.

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The increase in e-waste has been accounted to the technological developments over the past several years, shorter device lifespan, as well as consumer habits. “From a consumer perspective, we tend to upgrade our technological setup to the latest available technology. The phone I’m holding right now … is five years old, but not many Canadians are like me, right? They tend to upgrade their device every year,” said lead researcher Komal Habib.

Habib also pointed out that while Canada’s population and technology have developed at a fast pace, its e-waste recycling infrastructure has not. She suggested that governments can provide better incentives t recyclers to help with this problem of e-waste. As for product designers, Habib suggests they can give more consideration to how metals and minerals can be more easily recovered from devices in a way that is financially viable. Furthermore, the public needs to become more mindful of their consumption patterns.

The study has been published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials and aims to help better understand the lifecycle of electronic items from point of sale to disposal.

Vineet Washington


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