It has been reported by the United Nations University that Asia’s growing middle classes are causing serious environmental concerns in regards to the amount of electronics that they are consuming and throwing away.
Between 2010 and 2015, e-waste generated in East and South-East Asia has risen by 63 per cent.
Citing China as one of the greatest contributors of e-waste, the volume of e-waste has more than doubled in more than five years, with much of it getting burned or washed in acid to extract the copper and other metals within the gadgets.
The latter process leads to pollution of both air and water, which can cause cancers and infertility in workers exposed to the fumes.
Jason Linell, head of the US National Center for Electronics Recylcing, says that it is a large spike, although not unexpected for growing economies and that the 12 countries mentioned, “started out at a much lower point than other countries, especially Europe and the US, in terms of devices that have historically been sold.”
In China, the amount of e-waste, including televisions, phones, computers, and e-toys, rose by 6.7 million tonnes in 2015 alone, representing a 107 per cent increase over a five-year period.
Although the amount of waste has risen to 3.7kg per person, the report states that this is still a comparatively small figure compared to Europe’s average of 15.6 kg per person.
Ruediger Kuer, co-author of the report said that, “growing incomes, the creation of more and more gadgets and ever shorter lifespans of things like mobile phones are the reasons for this tremendous increase in Asisa.”
Kuer also went on to state that if the lack of environmentally sound management continues, it would be hard to drive future production of devices without recycling materials.
Currently much of the e-waste from western countries are sent to countries like China, with a great amount of waste from the US ending up in Asian countries.
Although mainland China has since cracked down on waste imports, Hong Kong has begun taking in large amounts, with around 100 containers of e-waste entering the port each day.