As more and more people in Asia now have the capacity to buy gadgets and computers, along with the high demand for technology, electronic wastes or e-wastes in the region have significantly increased to 63% within 2010 and 2015. That’s almost two-thirds of the volume of discarded electronics, according to a report by United Nations University (UNU).
The increase in e-wastes, which totaled to 12.3 million tonnes or 2.4 times the weight of the Great Pyramid, was seen in both total volume and per capita measures.
Another factor pointed out by UNU responsible for increasing volumes of e-wastes is the shorter lifespans of technology, which leads to the need to replace the electronics.
Twelve countries were considered in the study including Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Province of China, Thailand and Vietnam.
China made the biggest e-waste contribution by doubling its e-wastes to 6.7 million tonnes, which is up 107%.
There are environmental risks in the increase of e-wastes especially when they are not disposed properly or dumped illegally. Chemicals like lead and mercury often found in electronics are toxic, as well as burning these tech products which can cause chronic health issues.
One of the authors Ruediger Kuehr told CNNMoney, “It’s definitely a tipping point. The countries [examined in the study] have to be aware of the issue not only from an environmental point of view but also a business and economic perspective.”
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He added that by not recycling electronic equipment, countries are losing resources essential for maintaining production chains in the future.
An alarming status discovered by environmental group Basel Action Network over a two-year investigation revealed not all e-wastes being dumped in Asia are not entirely their own. It said that electronics taken to recycling centers in the U.S. often wind up in landfills in countries like Taiwan, China and Thailand.
For this, Kuehr suggests, “Politicians need to put it on political agendas to develop appropriate policies.
“Solid financing, a good collection system and lots of good international cooperation are needed,” he added.