While the exact amount of electronic waste that is dumped in Pakistan each and every year is not known, there is little doubt that it is certainly in the thousands of tons. While some of it has been generated internally, the great majority of that electronic waste has been imported from developed countries. Even though Pakistan is party to the Basel Convention, which bans the importation of electronic waste into the nation and has regulations for the proper handling of the waste in order to reduce the risks when dealing with cadmium, beryllium, bromine flame retardant and lead, the laws are rarely all that well enforced.
The ownership of cell phones in Pakistan has increased from 1.277 million people to more than 100 million in the space of just two years from 2005 to 2007. When those devices become old cell phones, they will invariably end up finding their way to Karachi landfills and start leaking toxins into the soil.
Yet these toxic mountains are actually a potential goldmine for industrious business people and investors, according to some experts. The executive director of UNEP, Achim Steiner, notes that if Pakistan were to establish proper recycling facilities, the benefits could be beneficial in a number of ways. “In addition to curbing health problems, boosting developing country e-waste recycling rates can have the potential to generate decent employment, cut greenhouse gas emissions and recover a wide range of valuable materials,” he says.