E-waste in developing countries

Developing countries will be producing at least twice as much electronic waste as developed countries within the next six to eight years, according to a new study published in the American Chemical Society’s journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Dr Eric Williams and his colleagues at Arizona State University used a computer model to forecast the global distribution of discarded PCs.

The model predicted that consumers in developing countries will dispose of more computers than developed countries by 2016 and by 2030 they predict that developing countries will discard between 400 million and 700 million obsolete personal computers per year, compared to 200 million to 300 million in developed countries.

The trend has led to global concern about environmentally safe ways of disposing of e-waste, which contains potentially toxic substances.

To financially address the recycling issue, one idea the researchers suggested is to require that recycling deposits be paid on equipment at purchase – deposits that follow the device through its life, tracked by radio-frequency identification devices.

The study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and by the US National Science Foundation.