The level of e-waste in East and South-East Asia has increased by almost two-thirds between 2010-2015, and e-waste generation is rising fast in both per capita measures and total volume, according to a new UNU research report. The population of China alone has more than doubled its e-waste generation from 2010-2015 to a staggering 6.7 million tonnes (up 107%).
The report cautions illegal and improper dumping of e-waste, widespread in most countries, irrespective of national e-waste legislation. Recyclers, dismantlers and consumers are often accountable for illegal dumping, “open dumping” in particular, whereby non-functional residues and parts from treatment operations and dismantling are disposed into the environment.
Common practices such as open burning, which can cause chronic and acute ill-effects on the environment and public health are also highlighted in the report. This is mainly practices by informal recyclers when separating organic and inorganic compounds, such as burning cables to recover copper. Spontaneous combustion, though less common, often occurs at open dumping spots when items such as batteries spark fires due to short circuits.
Japan, the Province of China, and Republic of Korea and Taiwan all have a head start in the region in establishing e-waste recycling systems and collection, having commenced in the late 1990’s, according to the report. This was built in large on experience in solid waste management.
Malaysia, China, The Philippines and Vietnam all have recent e-waste legislation. These four countries are therefore said to be in a ‘transitionary phase’, and have a mix of formal and informal habits in an evolving ecosystem in terms of recycling infrastructure and waste collection.
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