Electronic waste rises 8pc in two years thanks to falling prices

Discarded equipment such as phones laptops fridges sensors and TVs contain substances that pose considerable environmental and health risks

And this waste is only increasing. By 2021 there will be a 17 percent increase, making e-waste the fastest growing part of the world's domestic waste stream, according to the study.

In 2016 the world generated e-waste - everything from end-of-life refrigerators and television sets to solar panels, mobile phones and computers - equal in weight to nearly nine Great Pyramids of Giza, 4,500 Eiffel Towers, or 1.23 million fully loaded 18-wheel, 40-ton trucks, enough to form a line from NY to Bangkok and back.

The term e-waste - discarded products with a battery or plug - describes everything from refrigerators and solar panels to TVs, phones and computers.

"We live in a time of transition to a more digital world, where automation, sensors and artificial intelligence are transforming industry and society", said Antonis Mavropoulos, President of the International Solid Waste association (ISWA). "Improved measurement of e-waste is essential to set and monitor targets, and identify policies".

The report estimated that the value of recoverable precious materials like gold, silver, copper, platinum and palladium contained in last year's e-waste was $55 billion and much of it was going to waste. "However, informal recycling operations have been in place for a long time, with over one million poor people in India involved in manual recycling operations", the report said. This has led to around 34.1 million metric tonnes of the total waste categorised as "simply unknown".

The findings also highlighted a number of growing trends.

"E-waste management is an urgent issue in today's digitally dependent world, where the use of electronic devices is ever increasing", ITU chief Houlin Zhao said in a statement.

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In 2016, Asia, Europe and the Americas were the world regions with the highest output of e-waste, while Oceania came last.

There's also an economic loss from dumping e-waste. Meanwhile, Africa generated the least per person - roughly 1.9kg - with little data available on its collection rate.

"The Global E-waste Monitor serves as a valuable resource for governments developing their necessary management strategies, standards and policies to reduce the adverse health and environmental effects of e-waste", said Mr. Zhao.

"Without better statistics on e-waste, and closing the main data gaps of current e-waste statistics, it is impossible to measure the effectiveness of existing and new legislation to show any potential improvements in the future" the authors write.

On a somewhat positive note, 66pc of the world's population (living in 67 countries) is now covered by national e-waste management laws - a significant increase from 44pc in 2014.

According to the report, just 4% of e-waste produced in 2016 is known to have been discarded into landfills.

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