Table 1: Places where e-Waste ends up.

Landfill: According to the US EPA, more than 4.6 million tons of e-Waste ended up in landfills in 2009. Toxic chemicals in electronics products can leach into the land over time or be released into the atmosphere, impacting nearby communities and the environment.

Incineration: This process releases heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury into the atmosphere and which can bioaccumulate in the food chain, particularly in fish, which is the major source of exposure for the general public.

Reuse: This is a good way to increase a product’s lifespan. Many old products are exported to developing counties. Although the benefits of reusing electronics in this way are clear, the practice is causing serious problems because the old products are dumped after a short period of use in areas that are unlikely to have hazardous waste facilities.

Recycle: Although recycling can be a good way to reuse the raw materials in a product, the hazardous chemicals in e-Waste mean that electronics can harm workers in the recycling yards, as well as their neighboring communities and the environment.

Export: E-Waste is routinely exported by developed countries, often in violation of the international law. Inspections of 18 European seaports in 2005 found that as much as 47 percent of waste destined for export, including e-Waste, was illegal. At least 23,000 metric tons of undeclared or “grey” market electronic waste was illegally shipped in 2003 to the Far East, India, Africa, and China. In the USA, it is estimated that 50–80 percent of the waste collected for recycling is being exported in this way. This practice is legal because the USA has not ratified the Basel Convention.

Source: Greenpeace International.