Electronic Waste - the Asia-Pacific Problem
Instead of limiting imports of electronic waste, the Asia—Pacific region should set up a robust recycling system, says Crispin Maslog.
Garbage in, garbage out is a phrase to describe what happens when computers find the wrong solution in response to the wrong input data. But when computers and other electronic products have outlived their usefulness, they literally do become rubbish and join an ever-growing mass of e-waste or e-scrap.
Up to 50 million tonnes of this waste is generated worldwide every year. The biggest exporters of e-waste are Europe, Japan and the US. And much of it is being dumped on developing nations.
It is a growing trend. A market research report published last month said that rapid developments in technology for laptops, tablets and smart phones is encouraging the equally rapid abandonment of old models in Asia, causing a sharp rise in e-waste. The study noted that the constant upgrades are spurring the need for the safe disposal of such waste. 
Simply abandoning the millions of obsolete computers, mobile phones and TV sets to decompose, or using unsafe treatment methods such as burning, leaves behind hazardous waste including lead, cadmium and mercury.
The need for safe disposal is a major challenge for both developed and developing countries, and makes e-waste management both a health and an environmental issue.
Developing countries themselves produce e-waste. In South-East Asia and the Pacific, countries such as Thailand and the Philippines are starting to discard significant amounts of e-waste. In parts of Asia, there is a high demand for the precious metals in electronic waste exported from elsewhere in Asia or developed countries, despite recipient countries having little capacity to process it safely.
Electronic waste in garbage can via Shutterstock.
Read more at ENN Affiliate, SciDevNet.