Vast amounts of hazardous electronic waste unaccounted for

Press release - February 21, 2008
The fate of large quantities of electronic waste is unknown, says Toxic Tech: Not in Our Backyard, released today by Greenpeace. While some electronic waste may be accounted for, by storage in attics or garages, much may be disposed of with mixed waste in landfills and incinerators or being exported - often illegally - for dumping in Africa or for rudimentary recycling in Asia, where it has a high toll on health, safety and the environment

Even in regions such as the EU with tough regulation, no precise information is available on what happens to as much as 75% of e-waste generated. In the United States of America, this figure could be as high as 80% or even more, since the amount of e-waste which is reported for recovery includes some of the e-waste exported to developing countries.

In newly industrialized countries it is almost impossible to estimate the amount of e-waste escaping any form of treatment or management, although in India, it is estimated that around 99% of domestic and imported e-waste -3, 00,000 tonnes per annum- ends up in the informal recycling sector or is simply dumped.

 "It is the scrap yard workers in Asia who are bearing the toxic burden of e-waste. They are exposed to a cocktail of toxic chemicals when the products are broken apart, polluting the water, air and soil of not only the scrap yards but the surrounding neighbourhood2," said Martin Hojsik, Greenpeace International toxics campaigner. "The mountain of obsolete electronic products is growing at alarming rate as our consumption of electronic devices continues to grow rapidly3."

Figures provided by three authorized recyclers in India suggest that currently only around 9% of end-of-life products are being recycled properly. The figures for mobile phones are not available any where. This means that, even for those companies reporting their own-brands, the hidden flow of e-waste from branded products currently amounts to an average of 91% of past sales. 

"If not addressed urgently, unaccounted for e-waste not ending up at the proper recycling facilities could pose a serious threat to our environment.  If 90 per cent of the waste is missing despite most of the companies' voluntary take-back initiatives, then this is really serious," said Ramapati Kumar, Greenpeace India toxics campaigner. "This clearly indicates that brands are not taking the responsible recycling seriously.  Brand responsibility will ensure that hidden flow of e-waste doesn't become a problem in anybody's backyard."

For further information, contact

Martin Hojsik, Toxics Campaigner, Greenpeace International
Tel: 00421905313395, Email:
Ramapati Kumar, Toxics Campaigner, Greenpeace India
+9845535414,

Saumya Tripathy, Greenpeace Communications
+9343862212,

Notes to Editor

1 Toxic Tech: Not in Our Backyard is available at:
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/not-in-our-backyard, with a summary version available at http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/not-in-our-backyard-summary
2 Recycling of electronic waste in India and China available at http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/recyclingelectronicwasteindiachinafull
3 By 2008 the number of mobile phone users around the world is projected to reach some two billion, and sales of mobile phones are rapidly increasing in emerging economies as well – it is estimated that over 150 million new mobile phones will have been sold in China alone during 2007.
PC sales are growing globally (by 10.4% in 2006) – slowly in the US, Europe and Japan, but much faster in emerging markets. In China and India, sales of PCs have risen by around 400% in the last five-to-six years, and an estimated 750,000 PCs and 550,000 monitors were sold in Thailand during 2004.
45.5 million TVs were sold in the period 2005 to 2006, a growth of 3% from the previous year. This was driven by fast market growth in China (17%) and North America (8%). The shift to digital TVs in western countries contributes to the renewal of a saturated market.
62.7 million games consoles were sold in 2006. Growth of 14.9% in the year made it one of the fastest developing sectors in the field of electronic products. The market’s volume is expected to rise to 80.6 million units by the end of 2011.

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