E-waste in Asia jumps 63 per cent in five years

The amount of discarded electronics in East and Southeast Asia jumped nearly two-thirds between 2010 and 2015, new research from the UN University shows. Rising incomes and the high demand for new gadgets is driving e-waste growth in the region.

Nearly 12.3 million tonnes of e-waste was generated in East and Southeast Asia between 2010 and 2015, weighing 2.4 times that of the Great Pyramid of Giza. China alone more than doubled its generation of e-waste over that five-year period to 6.7 million tonnes, up 107 per cent.

These are some of the findings of a recent study conducted by the UN University, which shows that rising e-waste quantities is outpacing population growth.

The average e-waste generation per capita in the region was approximately 10 kg in 2015, with the highest generation found in Hong Kong (21.7 kg), followed by Singapore (19.95 kg) and Taiwan, Province of China (19.13 kg).

There were large differences between nations on the per capita scales, with Cambodia (1.10 kg), Vietnam (1.34 kg) and the Philippines (1.35 kg) the lowest e-waste generators per capita in 2015.

“For many countries that already lack infrastructure for environmentally sound e-waste management, the increasing volumes are a cause for concern,” said co-author Ruediger Kuehr. “Increasing the burden on existing waste collection and treatment systems results in flows towards environmentally unsound recycling and disposal.”

Some of the main trends behind the rising e-waste volumes are: more gadgets, especially portable electronics such as tablets and smart watches; more consumers, both in terms of population growth and a rapidly expanding middle class with a more disposable income; and decreasing usage time due to either obsolete hardware or fashion.

The report warns that improper and illegal e-waste dumping is prevalent in most of the countries in the study, despite national e-waste legislation. Lack of awareness, incentives and convenience are in part to blame, as is weak governance and lax enforcement.


Image credit: UNICEF/Noorani

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