How your iPhone is swamping Asia with garbage

Joe Vesey-Byrne
Sunday 15 January 2017 10:30
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Picture:(Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images)

There have been 12 iPhone releases in 10 years. This is a lot of shiny material that has to go somewhere when you upgrade.

The expression 'no such thing as a free lunch' actually began life as an environmentalist slogan, one of the four 'laws of ecology' created by activist Barry Commoner.

Another less well remembered part of that manifesto was 'everything must go somewhere', better known as 'there is no such thing as away', meaning that to 'throw away' something is impossible, it does not disappear just because it's no longer in front of your eyes.

The great tech boom since 2010 has led to an increase in the amount of older technology that's been dumped elsewhere in the world.

One of the hotspots is Asia, where scientists have recorded a 63 per cent spike in the amount of 'e-waste'.

E-waste is electronic waste, and between 2010-15 mankind disposed of a great deal of hard drives, iPhones, cables, Furbies, nose hair trimmers, and much else.

Lead author of the study by United Nations University, Ruediger Kuehr told New Scientist:

More and more gadgets and toys are coming with either a plug or a battery, and it’s all substantially contributing to an increase in e-waste.

The study looked at 12 countries in Asia, and attributed the rise in waste to both the number of products but also the increase in the size of the middle class in this part of the world.

In addition a large amount of e-waste is exported from the west to be dumped in poorer parts of Asia.

According to New Scientist, despite the fact that Asia produces more e-waste as a continent, Europe and the USA produce more per capita.

Kuehr explained the problem of e-waste, even when products are made from recyclable materials.

From a technological point of view, you could recycle 99 per cent of e-waste, but it’s not economical...We need to design incentives to encourage a circular economy.

HT New Scientist

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