December 16, 2013
E-Waste Is A Growing Concern
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A new report by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that the annual world volume of end-of-life electronics is expected to jump to 65.4 million tons by 2017.
The report says that by 2017, refrigerators, televisions, mobile phones, computers, monitors, electronic toys and other products with a battery or electrical cord around the world could fill up a line of 40-ton trucks end-to-end on a highway straddling three quarters of the Equator. The prediction is based on data compiled by a partnership of UN organizations called “Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) Initiative.”
"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," says Ruediger Kuehr of United Nations University and Executive Secretary of the StEP Initiative. "We believe that this constantly updated, map-linked database showing e-waste volume by country together with legal texts will help lead to better awareness and policy making at the public and private levels."
The StEP world map database shows that in 2012 China and the US topped the world’s totals in market volume e-waste. China put the highest volume of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) on the market in 2012 at 11.1 million tons, followed by the US with 10 million tons.
The US ranked highest among major countries regarding e-waste, with each American responsible for an average of 60 pounds of hi-tech trash, which is almost six times higher than China’s 12 pounds per person.
The report shows that most larger electronic items, including televisions and monitors, were exported overland or by sea to destinations like Mexico, Venezuela, Paraguay and China. Used computers were more likely to go to Asian countries like Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates and Lebanon, the report showed.
"An advantage of the trade data approach is that it tracks the destinations of shipped products," report co-author Randolph Kirchain of MIT said in a statement. "However, the destination in the trade data may be an initial stopping point. Re-exports and final destinations are not always reported in trade data. If it is a stopping point before re-export, the final destination is likely in the same region.”
Kazuhiko Takeuchi, UN Assistant Secretary General and Senior Vice-Rector, said that the e-waste problem is a concern of the UN and its peoples and member states.
“The e-waste challenge is among these problems and UNU is committed through its research and also through coordinating the Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP) Initiative to provide science-based but applied recommendations to policy makers in governments and industry. And knowing and understanding the magnitude of the issue is key,” Takeuchi said in a statement.