Sales of electronic products in countries like China and India and across continents such as Africa and Latin America are set to rise sharply in the next 10 years. And, unless action is stepped up to properly collect and recycle materials, many developing countries face the spectre of hazardous e-waste mountains with serious consequences for the environment and public health, according to UN experts in a landmark report released by UNEP.
The report used data from 11 developing countries to estimate current and future e-waste generation - which includes old and dilapidated desk and laptop computers, printers, mobile phones, pagers, digital photo and music devices, refrigerators, toys and televisions. Indeed, global e-waste generation is growing by about 40 million tons a year
In South Africa and China for example, the report predicts that by 2020 e-waste from old computers will have jumped by 200 to 400 percent from 2007 levels and by 500% in India. By that same year in China, e-waste from discarded mobile phones will be about 7 times higher than 2007 levels and, in India, 18 times higher. Countries like Senegal and Uganda can expect e-waste flows from PCs alone to increase 4 to 8-fold by 2020.
E-waste from televisions will be 1.5 to 2 times higher in China and India while in India e-waste from discarded refrigerators will double or triple by 2020. Despite having banned e-waste imports, China remains a major e-waste dumping ground for developed countries. Moreover, most e-waste in China is improperly handled, much of it incinerated by backyard recyclers to recover valuable metals like gold - practices that release steady plumes of far-reaching toxic pollution and yield very low metal recovery rates compared to state-of-the-art industrial facilities.
The study, structured in three parts, has the following three main objectives:
1) Analysis of the market potential of relevant technologies for the e-waste recycling sector in selected developing countries,
2) Examination of the application of the ‘Framework for UNEP Technology Transfer Activities in Support of Global Climate Change Objectives’ in order to foster the transfer of innovative technologies in the e-waste recycling sector,
3) Identification of innovation hubs and centres of excellence in emerging economies relevant for e-waste recycling technologies.
Click here to read the full report
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