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Electronics Waste Programs Ineffective in Most U.S. States

Improvements could come from industry consensus

3 min read
Electronics Waste Programs Ineffective in Most U.S. States
Photo: Toru Hanai/Reuters

Discarded consumer electronics constitute a veritable Mount Everest of toxic trash. The worst culprits are rich nations that disproportionately send this “e-waste” to the world’s poorest countries for disposal. But new research is uncovering the true scope of the problem and the best way to solve it.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans consumers alone dispose of more than 500 000 computers, TVs, and cellphones per day. And even when those items are said to be recycled, the truth is sometimes different. The United Nations treaty known as the Basel Convention has estimated that as much as 80 percent of “safely disposed” e-waste is, in fact, shipped to developing countries to be burned, buried, or chemically dissolved—burdening some cities and watersheds in Asia and Africa with public health problems for years to come.

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Greg Mably

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