Inter-agency Issue Management Group on Tackling E-waste

Towards Eco-design and a Life-cycle Approach for E-product

E-waste is a term used to cover items of all types of electrical and electronic equipment and its parts that have been discarded by the owner as waste without the intention of re-use. E-waste is generally categorized as hazardous waste if toxic materials such as mercury, lead and brominated flame retardants are contained.

E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in developed as well as in developing countries. The decreasing life-span of products such as computers and mobile phones has reduced significantly in developed countries, subsequently increasing the amount of e-waste generated per year. This has a major impact on developing countries because much of this hazardous material is exported from developed to developing countries. Rudimentary methods like open burning, which are widely used by the informal sector in developing countries to recover valuable materials, have heavy impacts on the environment and human health

In response to a substantial increase in e-waste generation worldwide and taking into consideration the many existing initiatives and active stakeholders in the UN system in the area of e-waste, at their 21st meeting in September 2015, the Senior Officials of the UN Environment Management Group considered a proposal put forth by the International Telecommunication Union to establish an inter-agency Issue Management Group. Established in May, 2016, the Group focuses on promoting system-wide coordinated action and collaboration in the area of e-waste as well as effectively supporting Member States in their efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2017, the Group published a report on the United Nation’s System-wide Response to Tackling E-waste, which mapped the characteristics of UN e-waste initiatives and the UN entities involved. Several recommendations were provided in the report, which have resulted in three work streams currently underway:

Work Stream One involves two objectives, which include the strengthening of programmatic collaboration through undertaking analysis of UN entities’ decisions, mandates and programmes on tackling e-waste; whilst also mapping the various stakeholders involved in e-waste outside the UN system. 

Work Stream Two is focusing on the development of a draft work plan which will detail the substantive and operational elements required to establish an online standalone knowledge sharing platform on e-waste, to support communication and knowledge sharing among UN entities.   

Work Stream Three aims to deepen the liaison between the expertise held in this Issue Management Group on Tackling E-waste, and the corporate work on procurement and waste management undertaken internally within the UN system.