40 Million Tonnes of Electronic Waste Each Year
By Stephen Leahy
Mar 9 (IPS) – A global public-private partnership was launched this week to reduce the toxic mountains of electronic waste and recycle increasingly valuable metals and components.
Much of the nearly 40 million tonnes of “e-waste” — discarded electronics and electrical appliances — produced globally each year ends up in China, India and other developing countries.
Backyard recyclers in the developing world attempt to recover the gold or silver under hazardous conditions, says Ruediger Kuehr of the United Nations University, which will host the initiative called Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) in Bonn, Germany.
“E-waste is often incinerated, not only wasting needed resources but adding toxic chemicals to the environment, both local and global,” Kuehr told IPS from Bonn.
There is also a growing realisation of the importance of reuse and recycling in a world rapidly using up its natural resources.
Indium, a key element used in more than one billion products per year, including flat-screen monitors and mobile phones, has experienced a sixfold increase in price in the past five years. Indium is a byproduct of zinc mining, so it is not a matter of going someplace to get more, says Kuehr.
Reuse of elements like Indium is crucial because “we’re going to run out quite soon”, he said, but also because “we don’t know what environmental problems these are causing when they are improperly disposed of”.
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