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Waste office products ‘filling up’ the developing world

By on November 30, 2006 in Office Supplies

Developing countries are being forced to cope with waste office products and equipment thrown out by Western businesses, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Speaking at the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, UNEP executive director Achim Steiner claimed that many of these office products brought with them inherent dangers through chemical compounds, heavy metals and other pollutants.

Mr Steiner is the UN’s top environmental officer and is concerned by the amount of waste office products that are heading out of affluent nations to fill up landfills in the developing world.

In his speech, he cited a recent report that claimed that 100,000 computers had arrived at a port in Lagos but just 25 per cent of them were usable.

Mr Steiner said: "If these were good quality, second-hand pieces of equipment, this would perhaps be a positive trade of importance for development.

"But local experts estimate between a quarter to 75 per cent of these items are defunct."

Recent figures have suggested that five per cent of the entire world’s municipal waste is being created through broken down printers, computers and other office equipment.

This equates to 20 to 50 million metric tonnes of e-waste and in America alone, 14 to 20 million PCs are thrown away each year.

And with developing nations expected to triple their own e-waste output over the next three years, Mr Steiner has felt compelled to call on leading Western nations to take a commanding role in implementing take-back schemes and pro-active recycling projects.

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