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Monday, April 27, 2015

Strategic CSR - e-Waste

The article in the url below provides some recent statistics on the problem of e-waste (Chapter 8; Case-study: e-Waste, p544). As you might expect with the growth in the consumer electronics industry, the problem is getting worse rather than better:
"In 2012, 50 million tons of e-waste was generated worldwide, and with the proliferation of smartphones, smart watches and other tech gear, that number will only increase. United Nations officials estimate that the volume of e-waste generated worldwide is expected to climb by 33 percent by 2017, to 65 million tons."
The article contains not only statistics, however, but also some pretty horrific photos that convey the damage these toxic materials can cause unless recycled properly:
"About 80 percent of the e-waste produced in developed countries (North America and Europe on the top of the list) is not disposed of in situ, but shipped, most of the time illegally, to developing countries on cargo ships, where it is illegally disposed. … The southeastern town of Guiyu, China is a major e-wastebasket. CNN reported that Guiyu workers burn or process tech gear with hydrochloric acid to recover valuable metals like copper and steel. The process releases toxic heavy metals like lead, beryllium and cadmium into the environment. Hydrocarbon ashes have also polluted the air, water and soil."
Unfortunately, the chances of these trends reversing, particularly in developing economies, is remote at present:
"Disposing of a PC by sending it to a dumpster in Africa costs $2, while it would cost $20 to sustainably recycle it."
In the U.S., the problem appears to be lessening somewhat, although it is not clear if this is due to greater awareness or the economic downturn:
"According to recent data from Recon Analytics, in 2014, the average American replaced his or her mobile phone every 26.5 months, a vast improvement from every 18 months in 2007."
Take care
David Chandler & Bill Werther
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Stunning Photos Capture Devastation Caused by Electronic Waste Across the Globe
By Lorraine Chow
April 15, 2015