According to a new report from the United Nations University, higher incomes and more affordable prices have lead to an enormous jump in the levels of electronic goods being dumped in Asia. A five-year study found an average increase of 63% in e-waste across 12 countries.
Various technological devices have become a part of every facet of our lives and many of them, like smartphones, receive constant iterative hardware updates. For a long time, the waste coming from wealthier countries would be recycled in Asian factories and receive a new lease on life. The U.N. report concludes that as incomes in Asia rise, citizens are tossing their gear like the rest of the wasteful world.
The Guardian breaks the rising levels of waste by country:
China’s generation of e-waste more than doubled between 2010 and 2015, the period of the study, according to the report.
Hong Kong generated the highest amount of e-waste in Asia in 2015, an average of 21.7kg (3.4st) per person.
Singapore and Taiwan created just over 19kg per person in 2015.
Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines were among the lowest e-waste generators, with an average of about 1kg per person.
“For many countries that already lack infrastructure for environmentally sound e-waste management, the increasing volumes are a cause for concern.” Ruediger Kuehr, a co-author of the report and head of UNU’s sustainable cycles program, said.
But even when countries have an infrastructure to deal with e-waste, that doesn’t mean that it will work effectively. An earlier study from the U.N. found that 90% of the world’s unwanted electronics are illegally dumped.
Researchers warn that this ill-considered waste has serious consequences for the environment and presents clear health hazards. They also have concerns about the ways in which discarded gadgets make their way to the black market and fuel a shadow economy.