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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

Current E-Waste Policies Not Working


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E-waste created from discarded personal computers is a fast growing source of environmental damage; it poses an ominous threat to the health of populations in developing nations by contaminating the air, soil and water. And the efforts by first-world nations to stop it are not working.

Current policy efforts dictate that the U.S. and other first-world nations stop selling discarded PCs to developing nations. This approach is futile, according to a new study by Chinese and American researchers.

Developing nations will produce more obsolete computers than developed countries within the next six to eight years, according to the study by Environmental Science & Technology. Then, the volume in developing countries will reach 400−700 million units in 30 years compared to 200−300 million in developed nations, according to their predictions. "This rapid growth combined with large population leads to the question of how rapidly the domestic generation of e-waste is growing in developing world," says the study, Forecasting Global Generation of Obsolete Personal Computers.

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