Millions of mobile phones, laptops, tablets, toys, digital cameras and other electronic devices bought this Christmas are destined to create a flood of dangerous e-waste that is being dumped illegally in developing countries, the UN has warned.
The global volume of electronic waste is expected to grow by 33 percent in the next four years, when it will weigh the equivalent of eight of the great Egyptian pyramids, according to the UN's Step initiative, which was set up to tackle the world's growing e-waste crisis, theguardian reported.
Last year, nearly 50 million tons of e-waste were generated worldwide-or about 7 kilograms for every person on the planet. These are electronic goods made up of hundreds of different materials and containing toxic substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and flame retardants.
An old-style CRT computer screen can contain up to 3 kg of lead, for example.
Once in landfill, these toxic materials seep out into the environment, contaminating land, water and the air. In addition, devices are often dismantled in primitive conditions. Those who work at these sites suffer frequent bouts of illness.
An indication of the level of e-waste being shipped to the developing world was revealed by
"Christmas will see a surge in sales and waste around the world," says
According to the Step report, e-waste, which extends from old fridges to toys and even motorized toothbrushes, is now the world's fastest growing waste stream.
By 2017, Kuehr expects the volume of end-of-life TVs, phones, computers, monitors, e-toys and other products to be enough to fill a 15,000-mile line of 40-ton lorries.
Producers of e-waste
Although it is legal to export discarded goods to poor countries if they can be reused or refurbished, much is being sent to
"Much is falsely classified as 'used goods' although in reality it is non-functional. It is often diverted to the black market and disguised as used goods to avoid the costs associated with legitimate recycling," said a spokesman.
"A substantial proportion of e-waste exports go to countries outside
Few countries understand the scale of the problem, because no track is kept of all e-waste, says the
"These goods may subsequently be processed in dangerous and inefficient conditions, harming the health of local people and damaging the environment," said a spokesman.
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