A Scan of Critical World Developments
A Tsunami of Electronic Waste
The digital technology linking us in the virtual world of cyberspace also forms a rising tide in the tangible world of solid and toxic waste. The UN Environment Programme reports that up to 90% of electronic waste is illegally traded or dumped each year. In 2014, almost 42 million tonnes of computers, smart phones, and other electronics were discarded, equivalent to 1.15 million truckloads of waste forming a line from Barcelona to Beijing and back. And this total is expected to reach 50 million tonnes by 2017. Member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are banned from exporting hazardous waste to non-OECD countries; however, that have sidestepped the restriction by falsely declaring e-waste as “second hand goods” and shipping it to countries like Ghana, Nigeria, China, Pakistan, India, and Vietnam. As communication and its detritus go global, so, too, must regulatory frameworks. UNEP, accordingly, calls for a binding agreement on the classification of waste. Components like rare earth metals, copper, and gold can and should be recycled. Curbing the tide of e-waste would be a win-win-win for the economy, the environment, and public health.