E-waste rises by almost two-thirds in Asia

New research has revealed a rapid growth in the amount of e-waste in east and south-east Asia, with the volume of discarded electronics jumping almost two-thirds.

The United Nations University studied 12 countries in east and south-east Asia and revealed that a record 16m tonnes of e-waste, containing both toxic and valuable materials, was generated in a single year, which is 63 per cent more than it was five years ago

The biggest increase in e-waste was seen in China, where the mountain of discarded TVs, phones, computers, monitors, e-toys and small appliances grew by 6.7m tonnes in 2015 alone, which is a 107 per cent increase in just five years.

The report states that the total amount of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) put on the market worldwide increased from 51.33 million tonnes in 2007 to 56.56 million tonnes in 2012, with Asia buying nearly half of EEE put on the market.

The rise of e-waste across east and south-east Asia is thought to have been largely driven by rising incomes and high demand for new gadgets and appliances, and the report cites four main trends:

  • More gadgets: Innovation in technology is driving the introduction of new products, particularly in the portable electronics category, such as tablets and smart watches.
  • More consumers: The East and South-East Asian regions are industrialising countries with growing populations, but with rapidly expanding middle classes able to afford more gadgets.
  • Decreasing usage time: The usage time of gadgets has decreased; this is not only due to advancing technology that make older products obsolete but also factors such as product fashion. E-waste grows as more devices are replaced more rapidly.
  • Imports: Import of EEE provides greater availability of products, both new and second-hand, which also increases e-waste as they reach their end of life.

Co-author of the report, Ruediger Kuehr of UN University, said the increasing volumes of e-waste, combined with a lack of environmentally sound management, is worrying.

“For many countries that already lack infrastructure for environmentally sound e-waste management, the increasing volumes are a cause for concern.

“Increasing the burden on existing waste collection and treatment systems results in flows towards environmentally unsound recycling and disposal.”

The report warns of the improper and illegal e-waste dumping, which it claims is prevalent in most countries in the study, irrespective of national legislation. Known as “backyard recycling”, informal recycling is a challenge for most developing countries in the region, with a large and burgeoning business of conducting unlicensed and often illegal recycling practices from the backyard.

Mobile phones, TVs, monitors, printers and other electronics contain hazardous materials such as mercury and lead. Ink toner from printers is also considered toxic. These processes are not only hazardous for the recyclers, their communities and the environment, but they are also inefficient, as they are unable to extract the full value of the processed products.

To download the full report, Regional E-waste Monitor: East and Southeast Asia, visit: http://www.ewastemonitor.info

Clarity provides ethical WEEE compliance

If your business manufactures, imports or rebrands electrical or electronic goods in the UK then you must comply with the UK Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations. Our approved WEEE compliance scheme helps businesses to meet the regulations, with unrivalled member support, cost-effective packages and a variety of membership categories for all producers of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE). We are proud of being an ethical business and do not support the export of WEEE.

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