Any product or by-product that requires voltage to operate and has reached the end of its productive life can be considered e-waste. Products include personal goods like computers, mobile phones, hairdryers, radios and kettles, as well as larger white goods like refrigerators and washing machines. By-products include peripherals such as batteries, cables and SIM cards.
Most e-waste contains hazardous chemicals and metals (including lead, mercury, and cadmium) which threaten human health and the environment. These can severely damage entire communities through air and water pollution, which can cause poisoning, miscarriage, mental retardation and even death.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 20-50 million tonnes of e-waste are generated worldwide annually. This number is expected to increase at a rate of 3-5% per year. Calculations indicate that this number could exceed 100 million tonnes by 2020, if growth continues on this trajectory.