Toxic Tech: Not in Our Backyard

Uncovering the Hidden Flows of e-Waste

, by Greenpeace France

A dangerous new waste stream is rapidly emerging.

The UN estimates that some 20 to 50m tonnes of e-waste are
generated worldwide each year, comprising more than 5% of all
municipal solid waste. The fate of large quantities of this so-called
e-waste is unknown. This “hidden flow” is the e-waste that escapes
responsible collection, reuse and recycling systems and as such is
unaccounted for.
While some might be found stored in attics or garages or disposed
of with mixed waste in landfills and incinerators, thousands more
electrical and electronic products that have reached the end of
their lives are exported, often illegally, for dumping in Africa or for
rudimentary recovery by Asian informal recyclers. There, workers
at scrap yards - some of whom are children – are exposed to a
cocktail of toxic chemicals when the products are broken apart,
and as water, air and soil are polluted.
The quantities of e-waste generated are predicted to grow
substantially in the future, both in industrialised countries and in
developing countries, which are expected to triple their e-waste by
2010. The rich countries often legally or illegally divert this problem
from their own backyards. The hidden flow of e-waste that results
causes environmental damage in the backyards and scrapyards of
poorer countries.

* Read the report Toxic Tech: Not in Our Backyard (February 2008, 76 p., pdf)

* Read also the report Poisoning the poor Electronic Waste in Ghana (August 2008, 20p., pdf)