Emerging nations overtake West in dumping electronic trash

Emerging nations overtake West in dumping electronic trash
File photo of old computer monitors waiting to be scrapped.

OSLO - China and other emerging economies have overtaken Western nations in dumping old electronic goods, from TVs to cellphones, and will lead a projected 33 per cent surge in the amount of waste from 2012 to 2017, a UN-backed alliance said on Sunday.

The report, the first to map electronic waste by country to promote recycling and safer disposal of often toxic parts, shows how the economic rise of developing nations is transforming the world economy even in terms of pollution.

"The e-waste problem requires attention globally," Ruediger Kuehr of the UN University and executive secretary of the Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) initiative, told Reuters.

StEP is run by UN agencies, governments, NGOs and scientists.

The weight of electronic goods discarded every year worldwide would rise to 65.4 million tonnes from 2012 to 2017 from 48.9 million in 2012, with most of the growth in developing nations, StEP said.

By 2017, it would make the annual piles of old washing machines, computers, fridges, electronic toys and other goods with an electric cord or battery the weight equivalent of 200 Empire State Buildings or 11 Great Pyramids of Giza, it said.

Some waste from rich countries ends up in developing nations, where many people work in hazardous conditions for low wages dismantling it.

Waste from emerging countries, as well as Russia and other former Soviet bloc nations, overtook totals from Western nations such as the United States, the European Union, Japan and Australia around 2012, StEP data showed.

In that year, the West produced 23.5 million tonnes of waste and all others 25.4 million, a shift from the previous estimates for 2007 when the West accounted for most, StEP said.

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