Picture, if you will, 4,500 Eiffel Towers stacked into a heap. The weight of that imaginary pile corresponds with the actual amount of electronic waste produced by the world last year: 44.7 million metric tonnes. Environmental campaigners, focusing their energies on recycling paper, plastic and glass, have generally overlooked the accumulation of electronic waste. As The National reported, within the next three years the amount of e-waste generated by the world is estimated to rise to a staggering 52.2 million metric tonnes, the equivalent of nearly 10,000 Titanics.
Part of the reason for the rise in e-waste is the increasing disposable incomes in the developing world. Consumers are able to acquire electronic gadgets – smartphones, TVs and computers – at affordable prices. But the goods are carelessly discarded long before they have completed their full life-cycle, a consumer trend accelerated by the rapid introduction into the market of newer models. In the UAE, which has one of the world's quickest turnover rates of electronics and high consumption, with residents owning an average two phones each, that means an estimated 13.6kg of e-waste per person.
One third of all e-waste in the European Union ends up in landfills. Then there is the practice of dumping e-waste in Africa and Asia, where children, employed by ramshackle recycling plants to salvage precious metals, are frequently exposed to hazardous materials. The UAE will very soon unveil the largest e-waste recycling facility in the world, which cannot come soon enough to reduce the mountain of harmful rubbish. Consumers can play their part by simply using their possessions to the end of their life cycle, making use of all recycling options available if they choose to discard them or passing on their unwanted devices to a grateful recipient. We owe it to future generations to prevent an environmental disaster.