According to a report published by Zion Research, global demand for e-waste management is expected to reach USD 58 billion by 2021, with a compound annual growth rate of 22.7 percent during the forecast period.
Thats right, we go through technology like underwear and as a result the increased demand for the newest phone, tv, washing machines and other electrical components are pushing up the demand for e waste management especially as the environment and human health are main concerns.
E-waste items frequently contain an amount of toxic components. Computers, mobile phones and other electronic devices can contain toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury. The plastic casing and wiring of computer equipment can also contain hazardous materials, such as brominated flame retardants (essentially a neuro toxin)
According to the report, the short lifespan of popular electronic products requires the waste management industry to come up with innovative solutions. “The last several decades has brought significant explosion of electronic devices, with advancement in quality of life and communications. For example, transformation of telecom from landline phones to wireless mobile phone is one of the several examples.
However, emergence of updated technology so frequently leads to reduced life span of the electronic devices. Electronic products are rapidly becoming obsolete and are being replaced at a very short life span. This reducing life span of electronic device is however a challenge before the technology industry. It serves as a major driver for the emerging e-waste management market. About 70% of the heavy metals in the U.S.A. landfills come from electronics, though only 2% of the trash is electronic waste. Tons of e-waste is exported to Asia and Africa each year for processing,” according to the research.
In New Zealand, some ends up in landfill, with a few companies recycling the waste, however most ends up overseas in Africa or Asia illegally.
In Australia, ironically the place where people send their nuclear waste, electronics are also being sent to these regions.
An ABC news story found a St George Bank (aka Westpac) computer being pulled apart by 5yr olds in a rubbish dump in Ghana.
Broken or redundant computers are considered hazardous waste and are illegal to ship out of Australia while New Zealand has strict exporting rules for e-waste which is also managed under the hazardous material banner.
The issue seems to be the costly effect of recycling the e-waste with normally small companies who manage e-waste, tending to opt for dumping with rogue dealers, who offer a lot of cash for broken and smashed computers.
So while innovation may be pushing the boundaries of technology a serious after effect is the waste that it leaves behind.
Consider if you will that electronics is essentially the plastic waste of the future, so a company or person who can discover a way to dispose of ewaste whilst minimising the risk to health and the environment without having to dump may find themselves the next best thing in tech since the chip.
Image above is from Andrew McConnell’s Rubbish Dump 2.0 Series for the Luis Valtuena Humanitarian Photography Award Competitions.