Increasing problem of global e-waste subject of U.N.-led study

Dec. 16, 2013 at 5:48 PM
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UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- A forecast of the world's creation of e-waste says the global volume of end-of-life electronics is expected to jump one-third to 65.4 million tons by 2017.

The forecast is based on data compiled by the "Solving the E-Waste Problem Initiative," a partnership of United Nations organizations, and industry, governmental, non-governmental and science groups.

By 2017, the annual amount of end-of-life refrigerators, TVs, cellphones, computers, monitors, e-toys and other products with a battery or electrical cord worldwide could fill a line of 40-ton trucks end-to-end on a highway straddling three quarters of the Earth's equator, a U.N. release said Monday.

In 2012 alone, 54 tons of used electrical and electronic products were produced, an average of 15 pounds for each of the world's 7 billion people, the U.N. said.

China put the highest volume of e-waste on the market in 2012 with 11.1 million tons, it said, followed by the United States at 10 million tons.

"Although there is ample information about the negative environmental and health impacts of primitive e-waste recycling methods, the lack of comprehensive data has made it hard to grasp the full magnitude of the problem," Ruediger Kuehr, executive secretary of the StEP Initiative, said.

Data on the national volumes and international movement of e-waste is vital to addressing the problem, experts said.

"We cannot possibly manage complex, transboundary e-waste flows until we have a better understanding of the quantities involved and the destinations," said Joel Clark, founder of the Materials Systems Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "This research is an important first step in that direction."

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