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Environmental pollution

E-waste from advanced nations creating toxic dumping grounds in Asia, Africa

Wednesday, November 29, 2006 by: Jerome Douglas
Tags: environmental pollution, e-waste, Africa


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(NewsTarget) According to new United Nations (UN) report, the world's richest nations are dumping hazardous electronic waste on poor African countries. The head of the UN's Environment Program (Unep), Achim Steiner, was recently in Nairobi and said that consumerism was driving a "growing mountain of e-waste."

Unep estimates that up to 50 million tons of waste from discarded electronic goods is generated annually, and improper disposal of e-waste can release hazardous chemicals and heavy metals into the environment, making certain areas toxic.

Mr. Steiner stated his comments at the opening of a week-long conference in Nairobi which will review the Basel Convention. The aim of the convention is to reduce the movement of all types of hazardous waste. According to Steiner, "The need for Basel is ever more evident in this globalized world."

Steiner added, "Accelerating trade in goods and materials across borders and across continents is one of the defining features of the early 21st Century." In addition to loads of toxic e-waste, the decreasing cost of replacing computers, mobile phones and other electronic gadgets and the speed with which technology goes out of date means that there is more to be disposed of every single year.

In recent times, much of this electronic waste has found its way to Asian countries such as China and India. However, tighter regulations mean more waste is ending up in Africa, with a reported minimum of 100,000 computers a month entering the Nigerian port of Lagos alone.

Steiner went on to say, "If these were good quality, second hand, pieces of equipment this would perhaps be a positive trade of importance for development but local experts estimate that between a quarter to 75 percent of these items, including old TVs, CPUs and phones are defunct -- in other words, e-waste."

The Basel convention is meant to regulate waste in all of its forms, including e-waste. As of 1992, the convention has since been signed by more than 160 countries, and members of the convention in Nairobi will also press those countries that have not yet ratified the treaty -- such as the U.S. -- to do so.

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