2007-03-08 - How do you make electronics easier to recycle?
Source: The Christian Science Monitor (Moises Velasquez-Manoff)
A UN-led group is grappling with the growing crisis of high-tech trash.
Mountains of outdated electronics are rising worldwide, and a United Nations-led initiative launched in Bonn, Germany Wednesday is trying to set standards on how to recycle it.
Known as "e-scrap" or "e-waste," discarded electronics are one of the fastest-growing segments of municipal garbage, piling up three times faster than other refuse. Some of this waste is dumped in landfills, where the toxic substances it contains may leach into groundwater. But 80 percent ends up in developing countries where labor is cheap enough to make the harvesting of materials profitable. There, crude extraction methods and an absence of regulations expose workers to a host of toxic substances.
The UN initiative, called Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP), includes industry, environmental, academic, and government groups. Discussions revolve around how to make electronics easier to recycle.