New Energy and Environment Digest 新能源与环保参考

UNEP Report Urges E-Waste Action, Focuses on China

Posted in Electronic Waste, Recycling, Sustainability, Waste Management by ebalkan on February 26, 2010

A new UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report – Recycling – from E-waste to Resources (pdf) –  identifies the growing problem of e-waste internationally. Includes is the finding that, by 2020, computer related e-waste will be four times 2007 levels. More noteworthy still, is that developing countries – namely, India and China – will be the largest depositories for e-waste.

Whereas previous streams of e-waste originated from abroad, often imported under dubious conditions, the growing trend in China is domestically-generated e-waste, as NEEDigest has reported previously. This pattern matches with growing personal wealth and availability of cheap electronic goods and appliances: two factors combining to produce a culture of disposibility previously absent in China.

In the short-term, government policies may be exacerbating this trend. A small appliance-aimed “cash for clunkers”-type program launched in the fall has reportedly resulted in the disposal – and collection – of 2.39 million used home appliances, including televisions, PCs, refrigerators, washing machines, and air-conditioners within only a few months. But, as the UN report alludes and Shanghai Scrap’s Adam Minter has correctly pointed out, “China doesn’t yet have sufficient environmentally-secure capacity for recycling such a large quantity of used appliances.”

But, before we dive into that, let’s get back to the UN report.

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China Diverting Toxic Waste to North Korea, Emerging Information Suggests

Posted in Electronic Waste, Recycling, Waste Management by ebalkan on December 14, 2009

China has taken considerable steps in recent years to address electronic waste management practices unsafe for the individuals involved and harmful to local land and water supplies, as NEEDigest has previously reported.

However, China’s limited electronic waste recycling facilities and swelling consumption patterns has rendered domestic containment of toxic trash a serious problem.

Like China, the US and Europe face this predicament, and for years have exported trash to developing countries in Asia and Africa at a lower cost and with fewer environmental safeguards. It is therefore somewhat unsurprising, but no less disheartening, to find out that China, too, is joining the ranks of countries opting to manage waste by having less developed countries manage it for them – often at considerable health and environmental risks.

The newest recipient country is not in Africa or Southeast Asia, as one might expect.

Rather, it appears that waste is being diverted to North Korea, China’s northeastern neighbor, whose western coast lies directly across from China’s prosperous coastal areas and many port towns. This revelation contradicts certain assumptions that North Korea, its economic development stunted due to a centrally planned economy and isolation from the outside world, was comparatively free from the industrial pollution that beleaguers many of its East and South Asian counterparts.

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Outsourcing Toxic Dumping, in the Name of the Environment?

evan071Does the Obama administration have the will to face the prospect that a low cost approach might be inimical to a low carbon strategy, and ensure careful planning and responsible oversight? Or will US officials, keen on building a strong bilateral partnership, overlook the consequences of a business-as-usual scenario in China, permitting environmental degradation as the means to ambitious political ends?

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