Electronic waste, or E-waste, is receiving a lot more attention than ever before. Although this does not mean that the problem did not exist in the past, it might well be an indication that the great advances in technological developments and consequently our urge to have the latest super cool gadgets, result in the generation of huge amounts of waste which is often very poorly handled.
A U.N study released over the weekend predicts that by 2017, the number of appliances and electronics that will be disposed of will triple.
Christmas is the time when most people review the latest technologies that the market has to offer, and start making a list of all these electronics at home that can be replaced for new, thinner, more flexible or more functional models. While it is true that the newer version of our old TV or fridge might be much more energy efficient, contributing to a cut down on energy consumption and emissions, it is just as certain that not disposing of the old one properly might cause a lot more damage to the environment than good.
A study by scientists at the StEP at the United Nations University in Bonn, Germany, estimates that in a space of five years, the amount of e-waste generated worldwide will rise from 48.9 million metric tons to 65.4 million metric tons, the main contributors to which will be the U.S., closely followed by China. The increase will be caused by the huge number of new e-toys, mobile phones and electronic gadgets, which have flooded the market more than ever before.
The study is the first one to not only release actual numbers of the total e-waste, but it also shows which gadgets are most unwanted and a track record of where and how countries dispose of them. It is probably not surprising that if kitchen appliances are excluded because there are well established technologies for recycling them, the study identified mobile phones as the most commonly met item in e-waste containers. In addition, the study points out that most waste is transported to Hong Kong, Latin America and the Caribbean. StEP also released a world map, which provides detailed data on e-waste generation and disposal by country.
The authors of the study are urging governmental officials to formulate clear rules and regulations for e-waste collection and treatment, in order to prevent a major pollution disaster, which is fast approaching.
The study is released at the busiest time for the electronics business. Shoppers are queuing up to buy the latest technology as a Christmas treat, and absorbed by the hype of holiday and discount shopping, most tend to forget about the consequences their desires have on the environment.
Image (c) AP