Toxic Tech: Not in Our Backyard

Publication - 21 February, 2008
A dangerous new waste stream is rapidly emerging...The UN estimates that some 20 to 50m tonnes of e-waste are generated worldwide each year, comprising more than 5 percent of all municipal solid waste. The fate of large quantities of this so-called e-waste is unknown. Much is exported, often illegally, for dumping in Africa or for rudimentary recovery in Asia, where workers at scrapyards are exposed to toxic chemicals when the products are broken apart and as water, soil and air are polluted.

Chinese women dismantle computer circuit boards in an e-waste scrap yard. After sorting the circuit boards they will be burned over open fires to extract metals. The smelting releases large amounts of poisonous gases.

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Executive summary: This report investigates the global sales of electrical and electronic products and assesses the amount of waste arising from this. Quantities of e-waste generated are predicted to grow substantially in the future, both in industrialised and developing countries. Rich countries often legally or illegally divert this problem from their own backyards: the 'hidden flow' of e-waste that escapes responsible collection, reuse and recycling systems causes environmental damage in the backyards and scrapyards of poorer countries.

Greenpeace is challenging manufacturers of electronic goods to take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products - from production, through manufacture and to the very end of their products' lives. Only in this way can we ensure that the dangerous tide of toxic e-waste can be stemmed, and that the hidden flow of e-waste does not become a problem in anybody's backyard.

Num. pages: 76