UN warns of electronic waste timebomb

The United Nations has warned of a rise in electronic waste in developing nations that could put ecosystems and human populations at risk.

A report from the UN Environmental Programme said that waste from mobile phones, PCs and other electronics could become a serious environmental issue in the coming years for a number of countries.

The uptake of electronics in developing countries will increase dramatically over the next 10 years, but many developing regions are ill-prepared to process and recycle the components.

The report estimates that levels of electronic waste in India will jump five-fold by 2020, while regions such as South Africa and China could see a four-fold increase.

Of particular concern is the prospect of citizens searching through electronic waste for valuable metals. The UN warned that home-made incinerators used to extract valuable metals from circuit boards and electronic components in regions such as China can release hazardous substances into the atmosphere.

The processing and disposal of discarded electronics is also a concern in developed nations that process and consume most of the world’s electronics.

Environmental groups such as Greenpeace have stepped up the pressure on manufacturers and vendors in recent years to offer recycling programmes.

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