UN calls for action on tackling e-waste mountains

A UN report has called for urgent action in tackling the "mountains" of electronic waste that are growing in developing countries such as China and India, according to the BBC. A 500% rise could be seen in the number of old computers dumped in India by 2020, causing environmental damage and threatening public health.

The report looked at current levels of e-waste in 11 countries and how the levels may increase in the next ten years. Global e-waste is growing at a rate of 40 million tonnes per year.

Developing nations are happy to import e-waste from developed nations as they seek to extract valuable resources from them such as silver, gold, palladium and cobalt. Global production of mobile phones and computers in an average year, for example, will use 3% of the silver and gold mined, 13% palladium and 15% cobalt.

Extraction of these resources were also found to be inefficient and dangerous. One example in the report is the use of back yard incinerators to extract these metals in China, which are both wasteful and polluting.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) said that China was not the only one facing problems with e-waste. "India, Brazil, Mexico and others may also face rising environmental damage and health problems if e-waste recycling is left to the vagaries of the informal sector."

The UN's report went on to urge developing nations to start creating state-of-the-art e-waste treatment centres now, while levels of e-waste are still relatively small.

Konrad Osterwalder, rector of the UN University, perhaps put it best though. "One person's waste can be another's raw material."

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Microsoft helps smash massive botnet

Next Story

Gmail graduates and drops some Labs

6 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

if we were to stop sending all our junk to other countries and start processing it in our own country then the people that were making money in poor countries will be out of a job. We will then have a mass of people starving to death and have to send them aid...

How about build these "state-of-the-art e-waste treatment centres" in poor countries and employ the poor people.

exotoxic said,
if we were to stop sending all our junk to other countries and start processing it in our own country then the people that were making money in poor countries will be out of a job. We will then have a mass of people starving to death and have to send them aid...

How about build these "state-of-the-art e-waste treatment centres" in poor countries and employ the poor people.

I think you misread... that's precisely what the article says...

Author said,
The UN's report went on to urge developing nations to start creating state-of-the-art e-waste treatment centres now, while levels of e-waste are still relatively small."

Forget India and the like. What about my bedroom - it is covered in old techy crap! But I can't bear to get rid of the stuff!