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Electronics waste dumping refers to the practice of informal processing of old-fashioned or damaged electronic devices. This practice has caused several environmental concerns, implying that there is a need for developing appropriate electronic waste dumping strategies. Electronic waste dumping is a growing trend in China that needs urgent intervention strategies.
Chinese environmentalists are currently raising their concerns regarding the large amounts of electronic waste in the country, which are as a result of developed countries disposing electronic waste to the developing countries (Minter 25). A study conducted during 2002 reported that 80 percent of the high tech electronic wastes are disposed of in Asia, with approximately 90 percent landing in China, which is flown to family workshops.
This poses various health and environmental risks among the Chinese, who attempt to disassemble the waste yet they contain various toxic elements such as lead and mercury. The situation is further worsened by the fact that they have little or no protective clothing, which in turn increases their risks of exposure towards toxic elements.
This research paper analyses the problem of electronic waste dumping in China and the possible solutions that can be implemented to curb this problem.
The problem of electronic waste dumping China
There are numerous contributing factors that result in increased amounts of surplus electronic waste in China. Universal factors such as speedy technological changes and a decrease in prices of electronic components, rapid changes in media and obsolescence that has been planned play an integral role in increasing the amount of e-waste in China.
Even though there are technical solutions that can be implemented to curb this expanding problem in China, it has been significantly constrained by the country’s legal framework, logistical problems, and the collection systems. According to a study conducted by the United Nations Environmental Program, only 15-20 percent of electronic wastes are recycled.
Also, the report estimated that the amount of electronic waste could increase up to approximately 500 percent in countries such as China and India in the following decade (Hicks 465). The magnitude of this problem cannot be underestimated due to the fact that the country remains a destination for electronic waste dumping from most of the developed countries such as the United States (Minter 25).
Electronic waste dumping in China is also likely to be accelerated by external factors such as the new laws that aim at the regulation of production of electronic goods within Europe and other parts of the developed nations. The outcome of this is that there will be an electronic waste smuggling to China.
This is due to the facts that the EU directive states that the producers must meet the costs associated with the collection, recycling, treatment and disposing of the electronic waste in a manner that is environmentally sound (Minter 25).
Another issue that worsens the problem of electronic waste dumping in China is that the recycling of electronic waste is labor intensive, and this has fostered the establishment of a black market concerning the dumping of electronic waste. Perpetrators of such practice are making use of the cheap and skilled labor force that is readily available in China.
Most of the electronic wastes are normally transported to Hong Kong in shipping containers stating that they are due for recycling, after which they are smuggled to other areas inland. Electronic waste is a huge profit business for the local government authorities; implying most usually ignore the practice, which in turn passively encourages the practice (Hicks 460).
Apart from electronic waste dumping by developed countries, the domestic e-waste dumping in the country is also raising concern. There is an increasing demand for electrical equipment within the country, and this implies that the quantities of electronic waste will increase if appropriate e-waste management strategies are not put in place to address this issue.
China itself has produced about 1.1 million tons of electronic waste yearly from 2003. Specifically, statistics report that there have been 5 million Television sets, 4 million refrigeration equipment, 5 million washing equipment, 5 million computer systems and an uncountable number of mobile phones (Minter 25). These amounts are bound to increase because computer users are ever increasing.
Irrespective of the potential environmental dangers posed by electronic waste, experts are of the view that electronic waste can be used as a potential resource of recycled material to meet the natural resource constraints that the country faces.
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Their basic argument is that electronic waste devices normally contain materials such as reclaimable metals, which can be properly treated and reused effectively (Hicks 465). This can be overlooked by the fact that present recycling practices are harmful to the environment compared to the electronic waste itself. Elements that cannot be recycled are usually subjected to open combustion, which in turn contaminates the environment.
Management of electronic waste in China
There are various electronic waste management strategies that can be deployed in China to effectively address this expanding problem. The basic argument is that the problem of electronic waste in China cannot only be solved through the acquisition of effective recycling equipment from the developed nations (Minter 25).
The fact is that China lacks appropriate recycling technology but has rich labor to facilitate the practice; this implies that the country should develop a recycling strategy that is appropriate in the present situation. This should aim at guaranteeing the safety of the treatment process and the disassembly process.
Also, the recycling strategy should take into consideration the environmental conservation and the health hazards of the recycling personnel. Such an approach needs a complete overhaul of the labor structure in China and increased enforcement of the environmental compliance policies.
A suggested solution to this expanding problem is to adopt effective practices that meet international recycling standards and facilitate the reuse of electronic equipment. This can only be achieved if the recycling strategy shifts from the conventional end-of-pipe recycling treatment approach towards the adoption of a recycling strategy that prioritizes the prevention of environmental pollution (Minter 25).
Also, effective strategies should be put in place to monitor the manufacturing and the consumption of electronic devices. There is a need to have wide-ranging policies and measures that put more priority on the economic incentive and the aspect of market treatment. Generally, this can be achieved through the use of a public awareness campaign and their participation.
Consumer awareness should aim at enlightening of the dangers of electronic waste and motivate consumers to practice recycling rather than electronic dumping. The second suggested a solution to this problem is through the improvement of the Chinese legal system that deals with the recycling and reusing of electronic equipment. A basic strategy that should be implemented is that all the recycling and reusing of e-waste should meet the requirements stated under the 3R principle (Minter 25).
Also, national laws and regulations should be established that are directed towards the dumping of electronic waste. This should be accompanied by the use of technical guidelines and standards that must be followed to ensure there is effective management of electronic waste in the country.
The third suggestion to help curb the problem of electronic dumping in China is to establish a legal system in the country that outlines the responsibility of the stakeholders concerning recycling and reuse of electronic equipment. This involves the precise definition and outlining the scope of electronic products.
Allocating the responsibilities for the government and respective stakeholders of the role in ensuring that there are minimal cases of electronic dumping. Some of the involved parties could include the consumers, manufacturers and the importer (Hicks 465). Policies have to be implemented to ensure that each involved party plays a role in electronic waste management.
It is arguably evident that China lacks comprehensive legislation that can be used to effectively manage the recycling and reuse of electronic equipment. Also, the available policies are ineffective in addressing the core causation factors that are responsible for increasing amounts of electronic waste (Minter 25).
Therefore, effective strategies in addressing the problem should focus on effective recycling and reuse strategies and avoiding the accumulation of e-waste in the country. This can be achieved through consumer awareness, effective policies that ban the importation of electronic waste and effective recycling and reuse policies.
Hicks, Dietmara. “The recycling and disposal of electrical and electronic waste in China legislative and market responses.” Environmental Impact Assessment Review (2005): 459-571.
Minter, Adam. “Shanghai Scrap.” The Atlantic (2011): 25.