Developing countries will be producing twice the amount of e-waste in the next 6 to 8 years as developed countries, according to the American Chemical Society (ACS). There are overlapping reasons for this: dramatic increases in

PC ownership in developed and developing countries and the decreased lifespan of consumer electronics devices.

Many recycled consumer electronics end up in developing countries. In North America, the typical lifespan of a consumer device is 3.8 years; in Central and South America, the lifespan is 5.35 years, and in Africa it is 5.75 years. Basically, towards the end of an electronic device’s lifespan, there’s a good chance that it will be in a developing country when it finally reaches the point where it can no longer be used.

The ACS propose several solutions in their conclusion. The first is a reconsideration of global e-waste bans, which would cut down on e-waste but would have a negative effect on electronics ownership among low-income populations and would eliminate refurbishing jobs in developing countries.

The researchers also encourage the implementation of official recycling regulations, which would stop ad hoc recycling. They also encourage the use of economic instruments to promote the use of official recycling channels.

“Our central assertion is that the new structure of global e-waste generation discovered here combined with economic and social considerations, call for a serious rethinking of e-waste policy,” concludes the report. “We believe there are unexplored opportunities to mitigate informal recycling while enhancing economic and social benefits. Researchers and policy-makers need to work to develop and realize new solutions.”

By Mark Alvarez