Study Shows E-waste in Developing Countries is on the Rise

Several countries have looked to address the transport of electronics to developing nations through bans on either imports or exports of e-waste. Photo: Flickr/Bert van Dijk

A new study released by the American Chemical Society is forecasting that obsolete personal computers could reach 700 million in developing regions by 2030, and the amount of e-waste generated in these countries will exceed developed regions by 2016.

There is no general standard for developed versus developing countries, but the idea is typically tied into income groups.

The report points out that oftentimes when developed countries export electronics for recycling, they end up being reused because technology demand is high in developing countries but so are the prices for new electronics.

In fact, “87 percent of imported end-of-life computers went to reuse as opposed to recycling in Peru.”

Several countries have looked to address the transport of electronics to developing nations through bans on either imports or exports of e-waste.

Graph showing PC ownership in different regions over time. Photo: American Chemical Society

In the U.S., that bill is H.R. 2595, which was introduced in 2009 and would restrict the exporting of certain electronic waste to any countries that aren’t members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or the European Union.

The bill is still under evaluation in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Developing nations are predicted to produce more e-waste despite the fact that they own electronics for a longer period of time.

In North America, the average lifespan is 3.8 years according to the report, while it’s 5.35 years for Central and South America and 5.75 years for the Middle East and Africa.

But while ownership of obsolete computers in developed countries is starting to plateau at around 200 million, the number will take off toward 700 million in developing countries within the next five years.

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Trey Granger
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  1. Dear All – Please be aware recycling is not dismantling. Just because your TV or computer is taken apart with a screw driver and the components placed in separated boxes, this still constitute zero recycling. If the plastics are sent to China, is that recycling? Its doubtful, as thats a total black hole where no tracking can be performed even on an ISO 14000 company. If your glass is turned to slag and landfilled, is that recycling? If the boards are burned to recover the metal, is that recycling? Maybe a bit. The point is – be very careful when your dismantler says its recycled, to ask what percentage? You may get a figure that is less than 12% if it all goes to China. Call me I will tell you how it all works. Ron 801 973 4774 (we RECYCLE ELECTRONICS PLASTICS IN THE US)

  2. Hello Trey,

    This is an excellent article on how our E-waste ends up being carted off to other countries
    to be taken apart and possibly recycled for parts. It really gets you thinking about the volume
    of electronics that are disposed of regularly and how much of it can really be truly reused
    to create less waste.

    Thank you for this “eyeopening” article.

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