Although they receive far less foreign e-waste than Africa and Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean are significant and growing destinations for the industrialized world’s discarded refrigerators, small home appliances, televisions, mobile phones, computers, e-toys and other products with batteries or electrical cords.
Adding to the problem, the region’s fast-growing middle class is emulating American consumers by buying more electronic and electrical equipment. According to the World Bank, economic “climbers” grew 50 percent in the last decade and represent 32 percent of the area’s population, surpassing the number of poor for the first time in regional history.
The United Nations’ Bonn, Germany-based Solving the E-Waste Program initiative establishes e-waste academies as valuable resources for researchers, government decision makers and recyclers. Experts share their experiences and knowledge in developing countries.
Academy Coordinator Federico Magalini, Ph.D., notes, “What’s called a ‘best of two worlds’ approach is needed: efficient preprocessing in developing countries and maximized recovery of materials with proper treatment of residual waste in countries with the best technologies for the job, with proceeds shared fairly and equitably.”