Sales of electronic products in countries like China and India and across continents such as Africa and Latin America are set to rise sharply in the next 10 years.
And, unless action is stepped up to properly collect and recycle materials, many developing countries face the spectre of hazardous e-waste mountains with serious consequences for the environment and public health, according to UN experts in a landmark report released today by UNEP.
Issued at a meeting of Basel Convention and other world chemical authorities prior to UNEP's Governing Council meeting in Bali, Indonesia, the report, "Recycling - from E-Waste to Resources," used data from 11 representative developing countries to estimate current and future e-waste generation - which includes old and dilapidated desktop and laptop computers, printers, mobile phones, pagers, digital photographs and music devices, refrigerators, toys and televisions.
In South Africa and China, for example, the report predicts that by 2020 e-waste from old computers will have jumped by 200 to 400 per cent from 2007 levels, and by 500 per cent in India.
By that same year in China, e-waste from discarded mobile phones will be about seven times higher than 2007 levels and, in India, 18 times higher.
By 2020, e-waste from televisions will be 1.5-2 times higher in China, while in India e-waste from discarded refrigerators will double or triple.