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Technological e-waste to reach 65m tons by 2017

The amount of e-waste will reach 65.4 million tons by 2017 as global demand for gadgets rises.

A new study mapping over 180 countries has revealed a rather gloomy forecast for e-waste as the amount of technology rubbish will reach over 65 million tons within four years.

The data from the Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) initiative, which is a coalition of UN organisations, industry, NGOs, governments and science bodies, suggests that the amount of e-waste will rise 33 per cent from the 49 million tons of used electronic waste in 2012.

Across the world, the US is the worst e-waste offender with 9.4 million tons generated each year. Around 26,500 tons of that is sent to poorer countries to be disposed of.

The UK isn’t much better either, as it ranks sixth creating 1.4 million tons of e-waste annually.

China is second behind the US though, as it produces around 7.3 million tons per year.

“Although there is ample information about the negative environmental and health impacts of primitive e-waste recycling methods, the lack of comprehensive data has made it hard to grasp the full magnitude of the problem”, said Ruediger Kuehr, StEP’s executive secretary. StEP hopes that having an accurate idea of the scale of the tech trash will help “lead to better awareness and policy-making.”

The actual cost of safely disposing used electronic material has meant countries exporting it to developing countries, where it is usually dumped or broken down for scrap. There is a high percentage of those countries that use child workers to do so and those children are exposed to dangerous fumes.

“E-waste is often dumped in countires like Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan, Vietnam or China, where there are no facilities for effective recycling,” said a Greenpeace spokesperson. “Often plastics are burnt to recover copper and other metals, creating highly toxic dioxins. High levels of cadmium and lead from monitor glass are found in high concentrations in e-waste dumps.”

Mobile phones are the major contributor of the 13 million used electronic products exported worldwide. These are sent mainly to Hong Kong, Latin America or the Caribbean. Old PCs are usually sent to Asia, while TVs are exported to Mexico, Paraguay, China and Mexico.

Read more: Best smartphones of 2013.


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