* Electronic waste set to surge by 33 percent from 2012-17
* Waste in 2017 weight of 200 Empire State Buildings - StEP
* Better recycling, disposal needed to limit waste
By Environment Correspondent Alister Doyle
OSLO, Dec 15 China and other emerging economies
have overtaken Western nations in dumping old electronic goods,
from TVs to cellphones, and will lead a projected 33 percent
surge in the amount of waste from 2012 to 2017, a U.N.-backed
alliance said on Sunday.
The report, the first to map electronic waste by country to
promote recycling and safer disposal of often toxic parts, shows
how the economic rise of developing nations is transforming the
world economy even in terms of pollution.
"The e-waste problem requires attention globally," Ruediger
Kuehr of the U.N. University and executive secretary of the
Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) initiative, told Reuters.
StEP is run by U.N. agencies, governments, NGOs and scientists.
The weight of electronic goods discarded every year
worldwide would rise to 65.4 million tonnes from 2012 to 2017
from 48.9 million in 2012, with most of the growth in developing
nations, StEP said.
By 2017, it would make the annual piles of old washing
machines, computers, fridges, electronic toys and other goods
with an electric cord or battery the weight equivalent of 200
Empire State Buildings or 11 Great Pyramids of Giza, it said.
Some waste from rich countries ends up in developing
nations, where many people work in hazardous conditions for low
wages dismantling it.
Waste from emerging countries, as well as Russia and other
former Soviet bloc nations, overtook totals from Western nations
such as the United States, the European Union, Japan and
Australia around 2012, StEP data showed.
In that year, the West produced 23.5 million tonnes of waste
and all others 25.4 million, a shift from the previous estimates
for 2007 when the West accounted for most, StEP said.
MOUNTAINS OF TRASH
By 2017, trash from the West would rise to 28.6 million
tonnes, far less than the 36.7 million from other countries, a
side-effect of the economic rise of emerging nations such as
India, Brazil and South Africa.
"Although there is ample information about the negative
environmental and health impacts of primitive e-waste recycling
methods, the lack of comprehensive data has made it hard to
grasp the full magnitude of the problem," Kuehr said in the
Consumers could help with better recycling, especially at
Christmas, he said.
Waste can be valuable if recycled. One study estimated that
a million cellphones can yield 24 kg (53 lb) of gold, 250 kg of
silver, 9 kg of palladium and more than 9 tonnes of copper.
Sunday's report also showed that the average person on the
planet produces 7 kg of electronic waste every year. Americans
were among the highest with 29.8 kg each.
Separately, U.S.-based experts trying to track the fate of
waste said that about two-thirds of U.S. electronics waste is
collected for re-use or recycling and that only 8.5 percent of
the collected units are exported.
Bigger electronic items, especially TVs and computer
monitors, were exported to nations including Mexico, Venezuela,
Paraguay and China, it said. Smaller items often went to Asia.
Jeremy Gregory, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and a co-author of the report, told Reuters it was hard to track
trade because the waste is often merely described as "mixed
metals" on import documents.
StEP urged nations to adopt clearer trade descriptions.
For StEP maps, click here: here
(Editing by Alison Williams)