The World's Worst Electronic Waste Offenders

As great as digitalization has been for the world, it does of course have its downsides. The problem of e-waste is one of the more measurable ones. While smartphones have replaced a long list of electronic devices like MP3 players and digital cameras, that advantage is being cancelled out by a larger volume of digital devices being used by individuals, businesses and governments as well as the rate at which those devices are being replaced.

E-waste is still increasing over time, both in absolute numbers and per capita. In 2016, for example, 44.7 million metric tonnes of refrigerators, televisions, washing machines and other forms of electronic garbage was generated around the world and only 20 percent of it was recycled.

Even though China and the U.S. generate the most e-waste annually in absolute terms, the story is very different on a per capita level. According to data from the Global E-Waste Monitor cited in a recent OECD report, Norway is on top of the global e-waste mountain when it comes to volume generated per inhabitant. In 2016, the average Norwegian generated 28.6 kg of e-waste while the UK wasn't far behind with 24.9 kg. The U.S. had 19.4 kg. Unsurprisingly, generation rates per person are far lower in developing countries where penetration levels of electronic devices and household appliances are not as high.


This chart shows e-waste generated per inhabitant in selected countries in 2016 (kg).

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Recycling rate of e-waste in Poland 2009-2018
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Global recycled electronic waste of Target 2014-2021
Leading pharmaceutical companies in Norway 2021, by revenue
Global flows of e-waste 2019, by scenario
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Breakdown of e-waste generated in Argentina in 2019, by type
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Breakdown of e-waste generated in Costa Rica in 2019, by type

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