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EMF Studies

19 January 2017

China's Booming Middle Class Drives Asia's Toxic e-Waste Mountains

Workers at an electronic waste recycling factory in Jingmen,
Hubei province.  
Photograph:  Jie Zhao/Getty Images
China's booming middle class drives Asia's toxic e-waste mountains
by Stephen Leahy, The Guardian,
16 January 2017

Sharp rise in discarded electronic goods is generating millions of tonnes of hazardous waste, putting pressure on valuable resources, study shows

Asia’s mountains of hazardous electronic trash, or e-waste, are growing rapidly, new research reveals, with China leading the way.

A record 16m tonnes of electronic trash, containing both toxic and valuable materials, were generated in a single year – up 63% in five years, new analysis looking at 12 countries in east and south-east Asia shows.

In China the mountain of discarded TVs, phones, computers, monitors, e-toys and small appliances grew by 6.7m tonnes in 2015 alone. That’s an 107% increase in just five years. To get a sense of scale, if every woman, man and child in China had an old LCD monitor and dumped it the pile would not equal the 2015 tonnage. [1]

The region’s fast-increasing middle class is the main driver of e-waste increases, not population growth, the report by the United Nations University found. However, Asia’s 3.7kg per person of waste is still tiny compared to Europe’s 15.6 kg per person, it said.

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