News Digest | March 2024

Asia struggles to contain record e-waste deluge, UN report shows

An electronics factory in Indonesia. Asia is the largest user and discarder of electronic gadgets, while recycling rates remain low. Image: Flickr/ ILO Asia-Pacific.

According to a UN report on e-waste, the amount of abandoned electronic gadgets worldwide increased to a record 62 million tonnes in 2022, of which only 14 million tonnes were successfully recovered. Asia produces 30 million tonnes but recovers less than 12% of it, with informal recycling and disposal posing health and environmental risks. Southeast Asia lacks capacity and is confronted with an increasing influx of e-waste from North America and East Asia, while East Asia can handle imports. Though several Asian nations have e-waste legislation in place, very few have recycling goals. Every year, poor recycling rates cost billions of dollars in lost revenue, but with determined work, those losses may be recovered. Higher recycling targets must, however, be met with stricter laws, more money, and international collaborations. Policymakers also need to address the growing issue of solar panel waste, which is predicted to increase fourfold by 2030 and emphasize repair over disposal. Amid worldwide efforts towards sustainability and digital growth, the research emphasizes the urgent need for action to reduce the growing e-waste catastrophe.

IOM report: 1 in 3 migrant deaths occurs in transit while fleeing conflict

© UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson | Volunteers help refugees arriving on the island of Lesbos, in the North Aegean region of Greece. (file)

With almost 8,500 fatalities, 2023 marked the largest number of migrant deaths ever recorded. The biggest cause is drowning, and the Mediterranean route is still very risky. Despite fewer attempts at crossing, this worrying tendency is still present in 2024, with roughly 1,000 deaths reportedly reported in the Mediterranean alone. With more than two-thirds of unidentified migrants having no known identification, the situation is particularly terrible for them. Families are left without closure as a result, and it becomes challenging to determine the actual number of women and children who perish in migration. The research emphasizes the need for safer migration routes as well as the risks that people escaping conflict zones confront. With more than 23,000 fatalities since 2014, the Central Mediterranean route is the deadliest. To overcome this situation, governments should work together and improve data collection, according to the UN migration organization, IOM. Preventing additional fatalities and safeguarding susceptible groups while they are in motion is their aim.

Over 230 million women and girls subjected to female genital mutilation: UNICEF

© UNICEF/Adriana Zehbrauskas

According to UNICEF data, which was made public on International Women’s Day, there has been little progress in eradicating female genital mutilation (FGM), and it is still far from reaching the SDG 5.3 target by 2030. To do this, the pace of worldwide decline must climb 27-fold. FGM physically hurts girls and limits their potential since it alters female genitalia without a medical basis. There are fewer options for intervention as a result of the alarming trend of younger girls undergoing FGM. UNICEF calls for increased action against gender discrimination, funding for girls’ services, putting girls’ rights first in legislation, and better tracking of FGM prevalence. While FGM is most common in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, where poverty and violence make the problem worse, certain countries, like Kenya and Sierra Leone, are making progress. FGM is becoming less popular; in nations where it is practiced, 400 million people are against it. Even though there is still much work to be done, UNICEF highlights that progress is possible and reiterates that the goal is achievable with coordinated international action.

With 783 million people going hungry, a fifth of all food goes to waste 

© FAO/Sumy Sadurni

According to the UN Environment Programme’s Food Waste Index Report 2024, 1.05 billion tonnes of food were wasted worldwide in 2022, with 13% lost in the supply chain and 19% lost at the retail, food service, and residential levels. The Executive Director of UNEP, Inger Andersen, refers to food waste as a “global tragedy,” noting that it has an effect on economies and exacerbates pollution, biodiversity loss, and climate change. The food service and retail industries contribute 290 and 131 million tonnes of waste, respectively, to the 631 million tonnes of waste that come from homes. People throw away 79 kg of food a year on average, which is the same as 1.3 meals a day for the hungry. The problem is not limited to wealthy countries; household trash varies little with income level but significantly with urban and rural locations. It emphasizes the need to lower food waste emissions by drawing attention to the link between greater temperatures and higher rates of food waste. Partnerships that connect with SDG 12.3 to halve food waste by 2030, such as those observed in Japan and the UK, show promise for change despite obstacles. This paper, which was co-authored with WRAP, emphasizes the significance of addressing food waste globally and attempts to guide nations about data collecting and best practices.


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