Electronic waste is rising sharply across Asia as higher incomes allow hundreds of millions of people to buy smartphones and other gadgets, with serious consequences for human health and the environment.

So-called e-waste in Asia has jumped 63 per cent in five years. As it warned of a need for most nations across the region to improve recycling and disposal methods. Many countries that already lack infrastructure for environmentally sound e-waste management, the increasing volumes are a cause for concern. For many years, China and some other parts of Asia have been a dumping ground for discarded electronics from the developed world, recycling the waste in often unsafe but ultracheap backyard factories.
Asia has rapidly emerged as a major source of electronic waste, due to increasingly affluent consumers buying items such as phones, tablets, refrigerators, personal computers and televisions.


Meanwhile, improper and illegal e-waste dumping means increased exposure to extremely toxic chemicals, leading to severe health and environment consequences. Acids that are used to separate the metals in the electronic products are a particular concern, with inhalation or exposure to them causing serious health problems.
Although recycling can be a good way to reuse the raw materials in a product, the hazardous chemicals in e-waste mean that electronics can harm workers in the recycling yards, as well as their neighbouring communities and environment.
In developed countries, electronics recycling takes place in purpose-built recycling plants under controlled conditions. Plastics from e-waste are not recycled to avoid brominated furans and dioxins being released into the atmosphere. In developing countries however, there are no such controls.

 

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