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UN: Record Amount of E-Waste Generated

FILE - Workers unload and sort through a container full of electronic waste that was collected from a Nairobi slum and brought in for recycling, at the East African Compliant Recycling facility in Machakos, in Kenya, Aug. 18. 2014.

A record amount of electronic waste was generated last year, according to a United Nations University report.

In 2014, 41.8 million tons of e-waste - mostly cell phones, refrigerators, washing machines and other domestic appliances - were dumped around the globe. Less than a sixth of that was properly recycled said the report prepared by the U.N.'s education and research branch.

The United States and China generated the most waste. However, countries that regard themselves as environmentally conscious topped the list for per-capita waste, leading with Norway and followed by Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark and Britain.

"Worldwide, e-waste constitutes a valuable 'urban mine' - a large potential reservoir of recyclable material," said U.N. Under-Secretary-General David Malone.

According to the report, metals in discarded devices included gold, silver, iron and copper worth $52 billion.

But, Malone also cautioned that electronic waste was a "toxic mine that must be managed with extreme care," a reference to components such as lead, cadmium, chromium, and mercury found in some dumped waste.

The worldwide volume of e-waste is on target to reach 50 million tons in 2018, according to the U.N. report.

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