E-Waste is a term used to cover items of all types of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) 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 dropped significantly in developed countries, subsequently increasing the amount of E-waste generated per year. This has a major impact on developing countries as export of E-waste from developed to developing countries is allowed. Methods like open burning, which are often used by the informal sector in developing countries to recover valuable materials, have heavy impacts on human health and the environment (Source: Global Partnership on Waste Management (GPWM)).
In response to the substantial increase in E-waste generation and taking into consideration the many existing initiatives and active stakeholders in the UN system in the area of E-waste and environmentally sound management of E-products, at their 21st meeting (SOM21) in September 2015, the Senior Officials of the UN Environment Management Group (EMG) considered a proposal put forth by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to establish an inter-agency Issue Management Group (IMG) with a focus on enhancing coordination on E-waste across the UN system.
Established in May, 2016, the IMG on Tackling E-waste focuses on promoting system-wide coordinated action and coherence in the area of E-waste as well as effectively supporting Member States in their efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals; complementing and adding value to existing UN programmes, projects and initiatives by facilitating synergies and joint efforts.
Its tasks include mapping existing initiatives carried out by UN agencies and programmes; gathering information on existing standards, guidelines and best practices, preparing a report/glossary that clarifies the main terms and concepts related to e-waste, sketching modalities and preparing a work-plan/strategy for the development of a UN system-wide coordination mechanism on sustainable production, consumption and final disposal of electrical and electronic equipment, and developing a system-wide approach and a related strategy for implementation within the UN system to address the global e-waste challenge.