Electronic waste generation has been increasing annually, and in 2019 approximately 54 million metric tons was produced worldwide. That same year, the leading country based on e-waste generation was China. However, e-waste generation per capita is far higher in developed nations in the west. Despite this, large quantities of e-waste is exported to developing nations, often illegally. In export destinations such as Tanzania and Nigeria, regulations are less stringent. Although e-waste can consist of valuable components such as steel and gold, a large share of the components can be toxic (e.g. mercury, arsenic, and chromium). In regions with little to no regulations, processing electronic waste can be extremely harmful to human health due to contact with harmful materials and exposure to toxic fumes. The release of toxic materials, volatile organic chemicals, and heavy metals can also be harmful to the environment.
Electronic waste projections show that generation is expected to rise even further in the coming years. Therefore, proper management of the flow of e-waste is necessary worldwide. This can include an international protocol, funding for technology transfer, stricter national import and export legislations, and greater consumer awareness. Although the recycling of electronic products can be a good beginning to the e-waste problem, re-use or minimizing consumption is ultimately the most beneficial in terms of material footprint.