Although China stock market is at the centre of recent discussions (e.g. see Dow’s free-fall), China’s problems by inappropriate E-waste management might be even more serious than the problems of its stock market. The title CNN used is correct “China: The electronic wastebasket of the world“.
According the most recent statistics by STEP (Solving The E-waste Problem) initiative, in 2014 roughly 42 million tones of E-waste were generated. The global production of E-waste is continuously rising and it will be exponentially increased as developing economies grow and new technologies are developed.
For any given country, the total number of computers and other potential E-waste items is strongly correlated with the country’s GDP, because electrical and electronic items are essential for the functioning of all but the most primitive economies. But the main problem is not their rising generation but their inappropriate management and the associated illegal exports – recycling and dumping practices, mainly at India, SE Asia and China.
Contamination associated with E-waste has already caused considerable environmental degradation in poor countries and negatively affected the health of the people who live there.
The rapidly growing literature and evidence on the serious environmental and health impacts posed by current management practices in China and India is a certain signal for the importance of the problem. Thus, E-waste should be considered as a global health emergency too. For the available scientific evidence you can check the article “Health consequences of exposure to e-waste: a systematic review”
There is still limited knowledge on the ecological effects, human health risks and remediation options for some E-waste contaminants, such as Li and Sb, since they are not normally environmental pollutants. But this is not hopeful at all, in contrast, there are many reasons to be afraid of our limited knowledge.