The UN is building a coalition to combat the growing amount of global e-waste

UN ewaste coalition

Community activists are constantly looking for ways to build new coalitions. That’s particularly true for environmental groups that frequently reach out to other community organizations, businesses, and municipal governments. They know that building effective coalitions is the perfect framework for engaging people to address community concerns and challenges.

They also know they can achieve far more when they work together as a large, expanding coalition. That approach is more likely to keep drawing in new people to become part of the movement.

As Earth Day approaches on Sunday, April 22, a lot of environmental activists around the country will be looking to do just that: to use this annual event to highlight prominent environmental issues and showcase the role everyone can play in making it cleaner and healthier for all of us.

The timing of this annual event is significant this year for another reason. Last month, a new coalition with an environmental outlook was announced. This time, the effort was being led by the United Nations, and their emerging coalition is a worldwide one. Their goal: to create a worldwide system that allows for the management and proper reuse of e-waste, or electronic devices that are no longer being used.

And it’s likely to become a very powerful coalition – at least, that’s what environmentalists are hoping.

What action did the UN just take on e-waste?

It was announced on March 21 that the United Nations system had signed a Letter of Intent to support a system wide effort to manage e-waste.

That system has been broadened into a coalition that includes 20 organizations actively working to tackle the continued challenge posed by e-waste.

It was anything but a quick decision on the part of UN officials. For years, the United Nations University has been issuing warnings about the growing problem that e-waste poses, particularly in developing countries.

Millions of electronic devices are being manufactured and sold around the world, and those numbers grow each year. As manufacturers repeatedly roll out new devices that offer a more sophisticated technology than the older models, the speed at which consumers purchase the new version is rising as well.

Which leaves a disturbingly high amount of unwanted electronics that in far too many instances are ending up being discarded like other household trash items, ending up in community landfills. The UN has joined other environmental activists in sounding the alarm on that, warning that these devices are made using toxic chemicals like mercury and lead, which pose dangers to the soil and groundwater nearby, and to the health and well being of wildlife and people.

In some developing countries, e-waste is burned as a means of disposing of it, which releases toxic chemicals and vapors into the air that can be poisonous and are contributing to pollution.

“Over the last 50-100 years we’ve seen the invention and development of many different electronic devices, but the technology to ensure that their components can be recycled has not kept pace,” the UN report noted.

It also noted that a significant amount of electronic scrap is exported from affluent to poor nations that don’t have a framework or system in place to dispose of it in an environmentally-friendly way.

What Could the Letter of Intent Accomplish?

The Letter of Intent marks a milestone in efforts to address the global e-waste challenge. By signing the Letter of Intent, the UN is paving the way for coordination and collaboration on future e-waste management efforts.

It’s also notable that other organizations which signed the letter included UN Environment, the International Telecommunication Union, United Nations University, International Labour Organization, the Basel and Stockholm Convention, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.

Their goal is clear: to reverse the troubling trend of e-waste and its impact on our environment. Clearly, there’s no reversing the fact that we’re now in a digital age, and the economic and educational benefits of being in a digital information society are enormous. The challenge is to reverse the impact of the massive global consumption of electronic devices, which had led to the fast-rising amount of e-waste.

It’s no surprise, then, that the Letter of Intent was part of the ongoing work the Environment Management Group, which promotes system-wide action and collaboration to combat e-waste. As the Environment Management Group has noted, more collaboration is needed to truly be effective when it comes to reducing the millions of metric tons of e-waste — 44.7 million tons in 2016 alone – that is being generated worldwide.

E-waste is categorized as hazardous waste when they contain toxic materials like mercury, lead and brominated flame retardants, and it’s one of the fastest growing waste streams in both developed and developing countries. Because computers and mobile phones have a shorter and shorter life span, the amount of e-waste being generated each year keeps going up.

One solution that’s been recommended is to spread the word about the benefits of recycling e-waste. Across the globe, everyone can successfully play a part in reducing e-waste by recycling any used electronic devices they have, instead of tossing them out. Contact a top recycling firm like Great Lakes Electronics Corporation, where your unwanted devices can be disassembled, and the individual parts can be used to make new products.

If recycling rates start to rise, the trends associated with e-waste can be reversed.


The UN Letter of Intent is a welcome development, since it helps pave the way for a coordinated effort across the United Nations organizations to more effectively address the challenge of e-waste. It also opens the door for increased engagement with electronics manufacturers as well as recyclers, and new partnerships with private sector groups for future action.

In the meantime, we all know that recycling is a proven method for combating e-waste, and it offers a solution that works across the globe.

If you have unwanted electronic devices, reach out to Great Lakes Electronics Corporation, an experienced firm that performs environmentally friendly recycling of all electronic products.

Just as important, the team at Great Lakes Electronics is your proven safety and security experts. Once your material arrives at one of the Great Lakes facilities, it will be inventoried, and all company identification or sensitive information will be removed and destroyed. A Certificate of Recycling will be issued for each shipment.

To learn more, call 888-392-7831 to request a quote.