Moun­tain of elec­tri­cal waste reaches new peak

The China Post - - LIFE -

A record amount of elec­tri­cal and elec­tronic waste hit the rub­bish tips in 2014, with the big­gest per- capita tal­lies in coun­tries that pride them­selves on en­vi­ron­men­tal con­scious­ness, a re­port said Sun­day.

Last year, 41.8 mil­lion tonnes of so- called e- waste — mostly fridges, wash­ing ma­chines and other do­mes­tic ap­pli­ances at the end of their life — was dumped, it said.

That’s the equiv­a­lent of 1.15 mil­lion heavy trucks, form­ing a line 23,000 kilo­me­ters ( 14,300 miles) long, ac­cord­ing to the re­port, com­piled by the United Na­tions Uni­ver­sity, the U. N.’ s ed­u­ca­tional and re­search branch.

Less than one- sixth of all e- waste was prop­erly re­cy­cled, it said.

In 2013, the e- waste to­tal was 39.8 mil­lion tonnes — and on present trends, the 50- mil­lion­tonne mark could be reached in 2018.

Top­ping the list for per- capita waste last year was Nor­way, with 28.4 kilo­grams ( 62.5 pounds) per in­hab­i­tant.

It was fol­lowed by Switzer­land ( 26.3 kilo­grams per capita), Ice­land ( 26.1 kilo­grams), Den­mark ( 24.0 kilo­grams), the United King­dom ( 23.5 kilo­grams), the Nether­lands ( 23.4 kilo­grams), Swe­den (22.3 kilo­grams), France ( 22.2 kilo­grams) and the United States and Aus­tria ( 22.1 kilo­grams per per­son each).

The re­gion with the low­est amount of e- waste per in­hab­i­tant was Africa, with 1.7 ki­los per per­son. It gen­er­ated a to­tal of 1.9 mil­lion tonnes of waste.

In vol­ume terms, the most waste was gen­er­ated in the United States and China, which to­gether ac­counted for 32 per­cent of the world’s to­tal, fol­lowed by Ja­pan, Ger­many and In­dia.

Waste that could have been re­cov­ered and re­cy­cled was worth US$ 52 bil­lion ( 48.5 bil­lion eu­ros), in­clud­ing 300 tonnes of gold — equal to 11 per­cent of the world’s gold pro­duc­tion in 2013.

But it also in­cluded 2.2 mil­lion tonnes of harm­ful lead com­pounds, as well as mer­cury, cad­mium and chromium, and 4,400 tonnes of ozone- gob­bling chlo­roflu­o­ro­car­bon ( CFC) gases.

“World­wide, e- waste con­sti­tutes a valu­able ‘ ur­ban mine’ — a large po­ten­tial reser­voir of re­cy­clable ma­te­ri­als,” U.N. Un­der Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral David Malone said.

“At the same time, the haz­ardous con­tent of e- waste con­sti­tutes a ‘ toxic mine’ that must be man­aged with ex­treme care.”

Al­most 60 per­cent of e- waste by weight came from large and small kitchen, bath­room and laun­dry ap­pli­ances.

Seven per­cent was gen­er­ated by thrown-out cell­phones, cal­cu­la­tors, per­sonal com­put­ers and prin­ters.

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