Environmental decay and the illegal market in e-waste from a European perspective: current problems and future directions
In the last decade, the growth in electronics production and consumption has been coupled with an increase in the illegal export of electrical and electronic waste (or “e-waste”) beyond the borders of the European Union (EU). Shipped to illegal recycling facilities in less industrialized countries, e-waste is a severe threat to the integrity of local environments and a potential source of ecosystem and biodiversity loss. Although the extent of the damage caused by e-waste pollution is unknown, scientific studies have warned of the perils of hazardous substances, which are released during primitive e-waste recycling activities in countries such as China, Ghana and Nigeria.
Drawing insights from the scientific literature, this paper illustrates how the problem of e-waste pollution is intrinsically linked to the issue of biodiversity and ecosystem degradation. In particular, it argues that much greater attention should be paid to the EU Directives on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS) and to the proposals to recast the two Directives because of their potential to enhance environmental protection globally. Nonetheless, underpinning this scrutiny is the contention that shortcomings in the EU legal framework on e-waste could ultimately affect the environment and biodiversity of less industrialized states.
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