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 user 2007-03-07 at 11:49:00 am Views: 36
  • #17357

    UN outlines global e-waste goals
    The UN has launched a global initiative to tackle the growing mountain of electrical and electronic waste.
    private-public partnership hopes to create a global recycling standard,
    extend the life of products and improve the market for second-hand
    goods.The world’s annual volume of “e-waste” is expected to exceed 40m
    tonnes in the near future, the UN estimates.Companies that have signed
    up to the scheme include Microsoft, Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and
    Dell.”The global materials flow of electronic and electrical equipment
    requires a global approach,” explained Ruediger Kuehr, executive
    secretary of the UN project, called Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP).
    1: Lead in cathode ray tube and solder
    2: Arsenic in older cathode ray tubes
    3: Antimony trioxide as flame retardant
    4: Polybrominated flame retardants in plastic casings, cables and circuit boards
    5: Selenium in circuit boards as power supply rectifier
    6: Cadmium in circuit boards and semiconductors
    7: Chromium in steel as corrosion protection
    8: Cobalt in steel for structure and magnetism
    9: Mercury in switches and housing

    said growth in the consumption of goods and devices around the world
    meant the problem would only get worse if left unchecked.”Just look at
    places such as China and India; in all of these transitional countries,
    the demand for electrical and electronic devices is exploding,” Mr
    Kuehr observed.The decreasing cost of replacing computers, mobile
    phones and other gadgets, and the speed with which technology goes out
    date, has resulted in more and more devices ending up on the
    scrap-heap.The European Environment Agency has calculated that the
    volume of e-waste is rising about three times faster than any other
    form of municipal waste.If not disposed of properly, e-waste can result
    in toxic substances seeping in soil and groundwater, harming the local
    environment and people’s health.

    ‘Informal’ recycling
    Hieronymi, business environment manager for HP, said the initiative
    would address the environmental and health concerns.The main problems
    were in developing nations in Asia, Africa and South America, where
    “informal” recycling networks operated, he added.”Basically, people are
    going round collecting PCs, printers and fridges, and take them home
    into their backyard.”They earn money by dismantling the products,
    salvaging parts, and removing precious metals.”But they lacked proper
    skills and equipment, leaving themselves and the local environment
    exposed to harmful substances, he warned.”For example,” Mr Hieronymi
    explained, “burning salvaged cables to expose copper wires, rather than
    using machines to cut away the casing, results in toxic fumes being
    emitted.”Mr Ruediger said that a team of Swiss researchers, who were
    part of the StEP partnership, were providing training for the
    recyclers.”It is in order to make people aware of what they are doing
    and the impact on their environment and on their health.”

    Raising awareness
    industrialised nations and established markets, the initiative will
    focus on making consumers aware of the consequences of throwing away
    equipment that still works.Taskforces will help shape government
    policies and look at concerns surrounding products’ design, life
    expectancy and recyclability.And the UN initiative will build on the
    framework set up under the EU’s Waste Electrical and Electronic
    Equipment (WEEE) Directive.The directive requires producers to bear the
    cost of the collection, recovery and disposal of devices no longer
    wanted by consumers.”It will challenge companies to improve the design
    and performance of their goods,” Mr Ruediger predicted.As well as
    involving leading manufacturers of electronic goods, the taskforces
    will also include academics, government officials and NGOs.The
    long-term goal of the initiative is to develop a global standard for
    recycling, and improve the collection and recycling of e-waste.StEP’s
    secretariat will be hosted by the United Nations University in Bonn,