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Developing Countries Need Preparation for Electronic Waste Challenges

Sales of electronic goods such as old cell phones across countries such as India and China and continents such as Latin America and Africa are expected to rapidly increase over the course of the next ten years, and experts are warning that developing countries will face the prospect of mountains of hazardous electronic waste with the potential to cause serious damage to the environment and to human health unless action is taken swiftly to ensure such materials are properly collected and safely recycled.

The newly released United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report uses information gathered from 11 developing nations in order to estimate the amount of current and future electronic waste being generated, including old cell phones, televisions, desk and laptop computers, refrigerators, printers, digital photo and music devices, and pagers.

The report estimates that by 2020 in China and South Africa, the level of electronic waste generated just by old computers will have jumped by as much as 200 percent from 2007 levels to a total of 400 percent and to 500 percent in India. Electronic waste from old cell phones alone in China in the same year are expected to be as much as seven times more than 2007 levels and 18 times higher in India.

“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 Achim Steiner, the United Nations Under-Secretary General and UNEP’s executive director.