Monday, October 31, 2011

Electronic waste from rich countries, a pollution problem for the poor

Electronic waste (e-waste) from rich countries is recycled in the poorest countries, where it causes heavy pollution and endangers the health of its inhabitants, according to a study released Sunday.

While overseas shipments of electronic waste is prohibited by international agreement, the authors claim that entrepreneurs "unscrupulous" send many of these wastes to Africa and Asia in containers load, along with new equipment, whose import and export is permitted.

Tests conducted at a school near a deposit of electronic waste in the suburb of Agbogbloshie on the outskirts of Accra, the capital of Ghana , revealed contamination by lead, cadmium and other contaminants harmful to the health of more than 50 times above risk-free levels.

In this area, which also has a market, a church and a soccer field, the children collect copper circuits, plastic and other trash from high technology to bring money home.

Atiemar Professor Sampson, a researcher at the Atomic Energy Commission of Ghana, Ruediger Kuehr of the United Nations University in Germany, warned in his study that most electronic waste coming from abroad was burned and destroyed without the measures security adequate.

Ironically, experts say that metals and other critical parts of destroyed equipment (mostly from Europe and North America) could run out within a few years , increasing the cost of flat screen televisions, mobile phones and batteries of electric cars.

Informal Landfills

This study is part of a larger investigation aimed to analyze the problem of electronic waste in southern Ghana, said Sampson.

However, this is not something that happens only in Ghana but in other developing countries like China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Bangladesh and many others, where they are creating technology landfills , lamented Kuehr.

The goal is to better understand how to recover the metals in these informal dumps and determine the concentration of heavy metals to assess levels of contamination and health risks, especially in children who "often mouthed the hand that has been in contact with the contaminated surface. "

So far, Ghana " has not regulated the import and management of electronic waste, "said Sampson, and although the country signed the Basel Convention (which governs the import and export of hazardous wastes), not yet integrated into their legal order.

Moreover, the value of items of electronic waste and the large number of people working in the recycling informal "increasingly difficult to end there," because "the livelihoods of many people now depend on the income generated by these activities."

The UN, U.S. agencies and computer companies have joined the initiative to end the e-waste that is estimated, for example, 100,000 mobile phones may contain about 2.4 kilos of gold, equal to $ 130,000, more than 900 kilos of copper, valued at $ 100,000 and 25 kilos of silver equal to $ 27,300.

Therefore, countries are asked to agree a global recycling model using sustainable technologies and focus on improving standards of health , safety and environment, which is accompanied by business models, as well as a program to develop awareness-raising policies the manufacturers.

The UNU Programme, UN Environment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), universities and companies like Dell, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard (HP) and Philips have joined in the initiative "Solving the Problem of E -Trash "(StEP, for its acronym in English).

This initiative, involving both researchers, aims to standardize recycling processes globally to recover valuable components of electronic waste, extend product life and harmonize laws and policies.


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