|September 08, 2015|
65 per cent of Europe's electronic waste is stolen or mismanaged
|Something stinks about Europe's trash. A two-year investigation into Europe's electronic waste found that most of it is stolen, mismanaged, illegally traded, or just plain thrown away.|
The European Union has guidelines on how to correctly dispose of unwanted electronics, like IT equipment, household appliances, or medical devices. But, according to a report published Sunday by the United Nations University and INTERPOL, only 35 per cent of electronic waste was disposed of correctly in 2012.
Meanwhile, criminals absconded out of Europe with 1.3 million tonnes of undocumented equipment, such as laptops, circuit boards, or refrigerators. The loss of functional components or the precious metals inside cost the European Union up to 1.7 billion euros each year, say the researchers.
An additional 4.7 million tonnes of electronics were mismanaged or illegally traded inside Europe. That means that toxic materials that can be harmful to the environment or to people's health, such as lead, cadmium, and mercury, are not being disposed of in a safe way.
The researchers have a few suggestions for cleaning up the problem. One is to institute a ban on cash transactions in the scrap metal trade, which would help authorities keep track of where waste goes. Another is to create national task forces comprised of different local stakeholders, to research the problem on the ground, run consumer awareness campaigns, or enforce penalties for offenders.
"Bringing people around the table is not costly, but it's very effective," says Pascal Leroy, secretary-general of the Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment Forum in Brussels, Belgium. "There's a number of things that can be done just by talking to each other."