Waste produced by old computers, cell phones, and other electronics threaten to choke developing nations with mountains of hazardous e-waste, according to a new report on Monday.
The United National Environment Program (UNEP) says countries like China and India risk serious consequence as sales of electronics are expected to balloon over the next 10 years.
In South Africa and China for example, the report predicts that by 2020 e-waste from old computers will have jumped by 200 to 400 percent from 2007 levels, and by 500 percent in India.
The growth in India will be even higher, the report suggests, with e-waste from mobile phones in 2020 being 18 times greater than in 2007, and e-waste from computers six times greater.
This report gives new urgency to establishing ambitious, formal and regulated processes for collecting and managing e-waste via the setting up of large, efficient facilities in China, says UN Under-Secretary-General Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP.
Improper techniques and fractured policies in some countries are also contributing to the problem.
Informal recycling in China involves incinerating circuit boards and other components in backyard recyclers to recover valuable metals like gold, silver and palladium. This proves hazardous not only to the environment, but the workers as well.
One person's waste can be another's raw material. The challenge of dealing with e-waste represents an important step in the transition to a green economy, said Konrad Osterwalder, UN Under-Secretary General.
While costs may prohibit setting up national recycling programs, UNEP suggests developing e-waste management building on existing organizations working in the area of recycling and waste management.