The market for electronic devices is growing rapidly worldwide, and has a become problem. Mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and white goods like refrigerators and freezers have ever-shorter innovation cycles. Their short life leads to a growing mountain of electronic waste (e-waste).
According to a study by the United Nations, we produce 50 million tons of electronic waste per year. That amount of waste weighs more than the combined weight of all aircraft ever produced, the study notes. The authors warn that the amount will rise to 120 million tons by 2050.
These devices are rarely disposed of properly around the world – most are burned, buried or taken apart under precarious conditions. This practice not only endangers the environment and the health of thousands of people in countries such as China, Ghana and India, it also destroys over 50 billion euros worth of material.
In an interview, Morton Hemkhaus (adelphi) explains why the problem is growing and what forms of support the affected countries need.