Recycling plant, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Photo Essay - e-waste

Ever-growing consumption of electronic items makes e-waste a major issue around the world. So what is being done to recycle and reuse discarded computers and other accessories?

Increasing quantities of cast-off electronics combined with rocketing prices for the materials they contain are spurring companies across the world to come up with ingenious ways of collecting and salvaging e-waste.

1. As piles of obsolete computer monitors mount up at a recycling plant in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, it is estimated that more than 35,000t of electronic and scrap material from more than one million computers, 800,000 printers, 500,000 monitors and other devices were generated in the country over the last two years.

2. Workers spend time rummaging for computer waste, which is then sent to a factory for recycling, in the Tangerang district on the outskirts of Jakarta. The United Nations Environment Programme has warned that waste from electronic products poses a serious threat to developing countries

3. Computers are disassembled to salvage any parts that might be reusable at the E&E recycling facility in Taoyuan County, south of Taipei. One of Taiwan’s largest recycling factories, the plant’s owners claim that it turns up to 60 per cent of the island’s waste electronic appliances into reusable items.

4. Discarded motherboards are collected and piled high at the E&E facility. According to Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration, around three-quarters of the island’s e-waste could be reprocessed into reusable materials.

5. In Japan, memory chips are collected at Dowa Holdings’ recycling centre in Honjo, north of Tokyo with the intention of carrying out ‘urban mining’. Rocketing prices of gold, silver, copper and other metals have made the urban mining of cast-off electronic devices such as mobile phones a growth industry around the world.

6. Workers at the Dowa Holdings plant check all industrial scrap materials for salvageable components that may be reused or reassembled.

7. Owners of the newly opened waste recycling factory in San José, where this stack of discarded computer keyboards was pictured, say that an average of 20t of waste are exported each month to Vietnam, Hong Kong and Indonesia for reuse and reassembly.

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