Electronic waste has heavily polluted around ten percent of all the farmland in China, and now seems to be rising in alarming proportions in parts of both Africa and India. “In recent years there have constantly been outbreaks of heavy metal pollution, and from January to February alone, there were 11 incidents, nine involving lead,” claims the chief engineer from the Ministry of Environmental Protection in China, Wan Bentai.
According to figures from the United Nations, the world is producing around 20 to 25 million tons of electronic waste, including old cell phones, every year, with the great majority of that waste being dumped in Africa, China, and India, although on some occasions those nations actually buy the scrap directly.
This electronic waste is primarily composed of zinc, lead, and various other heavy metals and comes from processing plants, which extract the valuable materials in such a manner that is extremely toxic to both those doing the processing and others. The resultant waste products that are dumped once the valuable materials have been removed contain large amounts of poisonous heavy metals that can easily be carried by groundwater and end up contaminating large areas.
Electronic waste crusader Kyle Wiens, who is also the co-founder of iFixit, says that a better course of action than allowing scrap metal dealers to continue poisoning both their workers and the environment, or simply banning the waste, is to find ways to extend the life of the electronic goods concerned.