Developing countries risk creating giant mountains of electronic waste as their consumption of PCs and gadgets increases, the UN has warned.
According to a new report from the United Nation Environment Programme, certain parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America are set to see a rise in sales of electronics over the coming decade.
And unless countries such as India and China step up measures to properly collect and recycle these materials, the resulting waste poses a substantial risk to public health and the environment.
Issued at a meeting of world chemical authorities, the report took data from 11 developing countries to estimate current and future e-waste generation. This includes old desktop and notebook computers, printers, mobile phones, pagers, digital cameras and mp3 players.
The UNEP predicts that in India e-waste from old computers will have shot up by 500 per cent by 2010, compared to 2007 levels. In South Africa and China this increase is predicted to be between 200 and 400 per cent.
According to the report, most e-waste in China is improperly handled, with much of it incinerated by backyard recyclers to recover precious metals like gold.