Developing countries will be producing at least twice as much electronic waste (e-waste) as developed countries within the next 20 years, according to a new study published in ACS' semi-monthly journal Environmental Science & Technology. It foresees in 2030 developing countries discarding 400 million - 700 million obsolete personal computers per year compared to 200 million - 300 million in developed countries.
Eric Williams and colleagues cite a dramatic increase in ownership of PCs and other electronic devices in both developed and developing countries. At the same time, technological advances are shrinking the lifetime of consumer electronics products, so that people discard electronics products sooner than ever before. That trend has led to global concern about environmentally safe ways of disposing of e-waste, which contains potentially toxic substances.
The scientists used a computer model to forecast global distribution of discarded PCs. It concluded that consumers in developing countries will trash more computers than developed countries by 2016, with the trend continuing and escalating thereafter. "Our central assertion is that the new structure of global e-waste generation discovered here, combined with economic and social considerations, call for a serious reconsideration of e-waste policy," the report notes.
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Eric Williams, Ph.D.
Arizona State University
Tempe, Ariz. 85287