Slideshow

In Pictures: Old electronics don’t die, they pile up

Brazil, India, China and many others are e-waste graveyards

  • The electronic waste industry is booming and not necessarily in a good way. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that the US federal government discards some 10,000 computers per week and Pike Research says the number of electronic devices at end-of-life will double from 2010 to 2025. It is estimated that as much as 60 million tons of e-waste could end up as landfill. There are many efforts to stem the tide of course -- the European Commission recently said that by 2015 75% of e-waste must be recovered and 65% of it recycled (after 2020, 85% must be recycled). Here we take a look at where old electronics really go to die most of the time.

  • An employee places a discarded monitor before disassembling it at the Coopermiti warehouse of electronic waste in Sao Paulo. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Brazil generates the greatest amount of electronic waste (e-waste) per capita among emerging countries. Coopermiti is an e-waste cooperative formed in 2010 that sorts through technological trash and develops solutions for breaking it down for the purposes of recycling. At the same time, Coopermiti offers opportunities for employment and environmental education for the community. About four tons of circuit boards, found amongst the e-waste, are sent to Dowa Holdings Co. Ltd. in Japan each month, from which rare metals may be recovered.

  • Here a worker arranges discarded televisions at an electronic waste recycling factory in Wuhan, Hubei province. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), e-waste is the fastest growing commodity in the waste stream, with a growth rate five times that of other parts of the business such as industrial waste. The burgeoning middle classes in fast-growth China and India mean there are more computers and mobiles, adding to e-cycling growth.

  • Discarded mobile phones are seen as an employee disassembles them at the Coopermiti warehouse of electronic waste in Sao Paulo. According to UNEP, Brazil generates the greatest amount of electronic waste (e-waste) per capita among emerging countries.

  • An employee is reflected in a mirror as she disassembles a circuit board at the Coopermiti warehouse of electronic waste in Sao Paulo March 6, 2013.

  • Here discarded motherboards at one of Taiwan's largest recycling factories in Taoyuan county, northern Taiwan.

  • Here we see an e-waste recycle factory at Mankhal, 55 km (34 miles) south of the southern Indian city of Hyderabad July 17, 2009.

  • A garbage collector transports monitors and computers for recycling on a bicycle on a street in Hanoi.

  • The plastic shell of a French Minitel terminal moves on a conveyor belt as it is broken down for recycling in Portet-Sur-Garonne, southwestern France. The Minitel, the box-like terminal with a keyboard and monochrome screen, was introduced on the market in 1982 by telecommunications operator France Telecom and used by the French to get information as a phone directory or to purchase train tickets.

  • A circuit board, screen and plastic front from a French Minitel terminal which are broken down and recycled. Although there were between 600,000 - 700,000 of the units still in use, the Minitel service ended on June 30, 2012.

  • Workers sort batteries at an electronic waste recycling factory in Wuhan, Hubei province. China's renewable energy strategy through 2050 envisions renewable energy making up one-third of its energy consumption by then, the China Daily said, as the upcoming Copenhagen conference on climate change highlights the world's dependence on fossil fuels. The Chinese characters on the board read "Storage area for used Ni-Cd batteries".

  • A worker holds one of scrap mobile phones, at a recycling facility of Re-Tem Corp, in Tokyo. Re-Tem Corp researches and develops the recycling of rare Earth metals vital to the production of electronics. Japanese high-tech companies face higher input costs for rare Earth metals as dominant supplier China curbs exports.

  • Here a worker carries a discarded television at an electronic waste recycling factory in Hefei, Anhui province.

  • A worker scoops industrial scrap materials, collected from discarded electronic items, at Dowa Holdings Co's Eco-System Recycling Co, a recycling plant, in Honjo, north of Tokyo. Thinking of throwing out your old cell phone? Think again. Maybe you should mine it first for gold, silver, copper and a host of other metals embedded in the electronics -- many of which are enjoying near-record prices. It's called "urban mining", scavenging through the scrap metal in old electronic products in search of such gems as iridium and gold, and it is a growth industry around the world as metal prices skyrocket.

  • An employee selects parts of discarded computers in the recycling department of Itautec SA, in Jundiai. According to the Brazilian company which manufactures consumer electronics, ATM machines and provides IT solutions, actively recycles e-waste.

  • Technicians dismantle Xerox machines inside an e-waste recycle factory at Mankhal, 55 km (34 miles) south of the southern Indian city of Hyderabad.

  • An employee arranges discarded computers at a newly opened electronic waste recycling factory in Wuhan, Hubei province. According to the EPA, e-waste is the fastest growing commodity in the waste stream, with a growth rate five times that of other parts of the business such as industrial waste.

  • Children sort through discarded electronic equipment in search of copper parts to be sold to junk shops for cash inside a slum area in Manila's financial district.

  • A worker pours molten gold, recycled from components of mobile phones and other discarded electronic items, into a mold at Dowa Holdings Co's Eco-System Recycling Co.

  • Romanian actor Alin Teglas shows a lamp he made from recycled floppy disks in his kitchen, which has been turned into a workshop, inside his flat in Bucharest. Teglas, said he uses used computer parts to make by hand fashion accessories and lighting devices as a tribute to the computer on which he composes electronic music.

  • A man walks past discarded computer parts at one of Taiwan's largest recycling factories in Taoyuan county, northern Taiwan.

  • CPU chips are seen at a recycling facility of Re-Tem Corp in Tokyo. Re-Tem Corp researches and develops the recycling of rare Earth metals vital to the production of electronics.

  • Obsolete computer monitors are piled up at a recycling plant in Buenos Aires.

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