Recycling electronic waste in developing countries will be crucial to protecting the environment and public health, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
“Recycling – from E-Waste to Resources” said that with rising sales in cell phones, gadgets, and appliances in China and India over the next 10 years, proper e-waste collection will be crucial.
Without it, many developing countries face the spectre of hazardous e-waste mountains with serious consequences for the environment and public health, the report said.
The report was issued at a meeting of Basel Convention and other world chemical authorities prior to UNEP’s Governing Council meeting in Bali, Indonesia.
Using data from 11 representative developing countries, the report estimated current and future e-waste generation, including old and dilapidated desk and laptop computers, printers, mobile phones, pagers, digital photo and music devices, refrigerators, toys and televisions.
The report predicted that e-waste in from old computers in India will increase by 500 per cent from 2007 to 2020.
In South Africa and China, the e-waste will increase from 200 in 2007 to 400 in 2020, the report said.
Also in 2020, e-waste from discarded mobile phones in China will be about 7 times higher than 2007 levels. In India, it will be 18 times higher.
By 2020, e-waste from televisions will be 1.5 to two times higher in China and India while in India e-waste from discarded refrigerators will double or triple.
According to a 2010 estimate, China already produces about 2.3 million tonnes domestically, second only to the United States with about 3 million tonnes. Even though China has banned e-waste imports, it remains a major e-waste dumping ground for developed countries.
Moreover, most e-waste in China is improperly handled, with much of it incinerated by backyard recyclers in order to recover valuable metals like gold. These practices release steady plumes of far-reaching toxic pollution and yield very low metal recovery rates compared to state-of-the-art industrial facilities.