The dangers of e-waste
Dr. Keith Baker
4th June, 2009
In February 2009 the Environment Agency began its first prosecution against an individual for an e-waste crime, and claims to have prevented 33 shipments in the previous six months.
Yet this is a drop in the ocean compared to the estimated 33,000 tonnes of computers alone that the UK illegally exports to Africa each year.
In August 2008 the New York Times described e-waste as “the world’s fastest growing and potentially most dangerous waste problem”. The export of waste electrical and electronic equipment to the developing world, much of it leaving our ports classified as ‘reuse’, is a serious issue that remains largely unaddressed in national legislation. Although the UK is a signatory to the 1989 Basel Convention (an international treaty designed to reduce the movement of hazardous waste between nations, specifically from developed nations to poorer countries) and its subsequent revisions this illegal trade has continued unabated.
Traditionally, as with so many other environmental problems, the USA has borne the brunt of the blame, and indeed it continues to export between 70 and 80 per cent of its e-waste to the developing world, but at least it can point to the fact that it did not sign the Basel Convention back in 1989.
However a real change is now on its way. Obama has pledged to sign the Convention, but much more...
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