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E-Waste Piles Proliferate in Asia

E-Waste Piles Proliferate in Asia

Creative reuse of Used PCBs, Agbogbloshie , February 28, 2014 (Photo by Fairphone) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

TOKYO, Japan, January 26, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The volume of discarded electronics in East Asia and Southeast Asia rose nearly two-thirds between 2010 and 2015, and e-waste generation is growing fast both in total volume and per person measures, new United Nations research shows.

The study shows that rising e-waste quantities are even outpacing population growth.

Driven by rising incomes and high demand for new devices and appliances, the average increase in e-waste across all 12 countries and areas analyzed was 63 percent in the five years ending in 2015.

The e-waste totaled 12.3 million tonnes, a weight 2.4 times that of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

These calculations are drawn from the first-ever Regional E-waste Monitor: East and Southeast Asia compiled by the UN’s think tank, the United Nations University and funded by Japan’s Ministry of Environment.

To conserve resources and avoid serious health and environmental problems, the report urges a crackdown on improper recycling and disposal of electrical and electronic equipment, which includes anything with a battery or a cord.

The countries and other jurisdictions covered by the report are: Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

China alone more than doubled its generation of e-waste between 2010 and 2015 to 6.7 million tonnes, up 107 percent.

For many countries that already lack infrastructure for environmentally sound e-waste management, the increasing volumes are a cause for concern,” says co-author Ruediger Kuehr of UN University.

Increasing the burden on existing waste collection and treatment systems results in flows towards environmentally unsound recycling and disposal,” he warned.

Regionally, the average amount of e-waste generated by each person was about 10 kg in 2015, with the highest generation found in Hong Kong (21.7 kg per person), followed by Singapore (19.95 kg) and Taiwan (19.13 kg).

There were large differences between nations, with Cambodia at 1.10 kg per person, Vietnam, with 1.34 kg, and the Philippines at 1.35 kg per person being the lowest e-waste generators in 2015.

The report cites four main trends responsible for the increasing volumes of electronic waste:

•             More devices: Innovation in technology is driving the introduction of new products, particularly portable electronics, such as tablets, and wearables like smart watches.

•             More consumers: In the East and Southeast Asian region, there are industrializing countries with growing populations, and also rapidly expanding middle classes able to afford more devices.

•             Decreasing usage window: The usage time of devices is getting shorter as rapidly advancing technologies make older products obsolete – for instance flash drives have replaced floppy disks.

Software requirements also play a role in decreased usage time. For instance, there are minimum requirements for computers to run operating software and other applications, and there are “soft factors” such as product fashion, the report states.

As more devices are replaced more rapidly, piles of e-waste grow.

•             Imports: Import of electrical and electronic equipment provides greater availability of products, both new and second-hand, which also increases the e-waste that arises as the devices reach their end of life.

The report warns of improper and illegal e-waste dumping prevalent in most countries in the study, regardless of national e-waste legislation.

Consumers, dismantlers and recyclers are often guilty of illegal dumping, particularly of “open dumping“, where non- functional parts and residues from dismantling and treatment operations are released into the environment, the report points out.

The main reasons for illegal dumping are: lack of awareness, lack of incentives, lack of convenience, the absence of suitable hazardous waste disposal sites, weak governance, and lax enforcement of whatever laws do exist.

The report points to common practices such as open burning, which can cause acute and chronic ill-effects on public health and the environment.

Open burning of e-waste is practiced by informal recyclers when segregating organic and inorganic compounds. For example, they may burn cables to recover the valuable copper.

Though less common, spontaneous combustion can occur at open dumping sites when components such as batteries trigger fires due to short circuits.

Informal recycling, called “backyard recycling,” is a challenge for most developing countries in the region, with a large and growing number of entrepreneurs conducting unlicensed and illegal recycling practices from backyards.

These processes are not only hazardous for the recyclers, their communities and the environment, but they are also inefficient, as they are unable to extract the full value of the processed products, the report points out.

These recyclers recover gold, silver, palladium and copper from printed circuit boards and wires, using solvents such as sulphuric acid for hazardous wet chemical leaching processes, or acid baths, which release toxic fumes.

Open burning and acid bath recycling in the informal sector have serious negative impacts on processers’ occupational health,” co-author Shunichi Honda warns. “In the absence of protective materials such as gloves, glasses, masks, etc., inhalation of and exposure to hazardous chemicals and substances directly affect workers’ health.

Associations have been reported between exposure from improper treatment of e-waste and altered thyroid function, reduced lung function, negative birth outcomes, reduced childhood growth, negative mental health outcomes, impaired cognitive development, cytotoxicity and genotoxicity,” explains Honda.

Indirect exposure to these hazardous substances is also a cause of many health problems, particularly for families of informal recyclers who often live and work in the same location, as well as for communities living in and around the area of informal recycling sites.

The report gives top marks to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. These three jurisdictions have a head-start in the region in establishing e-waste collection and recycling systems. They began to adopt and enforce e-waste specific laws in the late 1990s.

Among the most advanced economies and areas in the region, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are also characterized by high per capita e-waste generation, formal collection and recycling infrastructure and relatively strong enforcement.

Hong Kong and Singapore do not have specific e-waste legislation. Instead, these governments collaborate with producers to manage e-waste through public-private partnerships.

As small jurisdictions with large shipping and trade networks, Hong Kong and Singapore must cope with major transboundary movements of e-waste generated domestically, as well as e-waste in transit from other countries.

China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam all have recent e-waste legislation. These four countries are in a transitionphase, with a mix of formal and informal elements in an evolving ecosystem in terms of collection and recycling infrastructure.

Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand have yet to establish legal frameworks for e-waste management. There is an active informal sector in these countries with an established network for collection and import of end-of-life products and their recycling, repair, refurbishment and parts harvesting.

Asia, including the 12 nations and jurisdictions in this new study, is the world’s largest consumer of electrical and electronic equipment, buying nearly half of all such equipment on the market, amounting to 20.62 million tonnes in 2005; and 26.69 million tonnes in 2012.

The increase is striking given the drop in sales of electrical and electronic equipment in Europe and the Americas in 2012 following the global financial crisis.

e-wasteHongKong

A tracking device inside an old printer led investigators from the Seattle-based nonprofit Basel Action Network to this e-waste scrapyard in rural Hong Kong, June 22, 2016. (Photo by Katie Campbell, KCTS/EarthFix) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Ranking the Top 10 Global Green Cities

Singapore

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore (Photo by Jean Baptiste Roux) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

 SINGAPORE, August 3, 2016 (Maximpact.com News ) – Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose city is the greenest of them all? The mirror held up by the corporate strategy consulting firm Solidiance reflects the answer in a new report  that compares the performance of 10 global cities and their green buildings.

To rank these cities’ green building performance, Solidiance developed a set of criteria across four categories. Three focused on the total number of green buildings, their performance and their initiatives, while one category examined each city’s supportive infrastructure, which has a lot to do with fostering a healthy green building movement.

After assessing the 10 Global Cities for green building performance, Paris was determined to be the leader, followed by Singapore and London

Sydney, Tokyo and Hong Kong came in the fourth, fifth and sixth positions, while New York, Dubai, Beijing, and Shanghai filled in the other four slots.

 “Singapore can certainly be considered a leader in the field of green building. The city target for 80 per cent of buildings to achieve BCA Green Mark standards by 2030 is ambitious but achievable, and the Singapore Green Building Council will play a key role in delivering this,” said Terri Wills, CEO of World Green Building Council, United Kingdom.

 Singapore is the “standout leader” in the Green Building Codes and Targets assessment Solidiance reports. While all the Global Cities have outlined city-level green building codes, only three cities have achieved their green building targets. Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai are the only cities with both a green building code and green building targets set out by the city.

Paris and Singapore took the top spots by excelling in all four assessment categories: city-wide green building landscape, green building efficiency and performance, green building policies and targets, and green city culture and environment.

They were the only cities that ranked within the Top Five in every category.

Both Paris and Singapore have strong building efficiency and performance, which shows that both local and international certification standards are yielding high-performance on green buildings.

 London benefits from high yield of green buildings in the city, which can be linked to the fact that the United Kingdom was the first country ever to introduce a green building certification system.

Paris fell just slightly short of Singapore in the absolute number of green buildings in the city, and by not setting out a clear city-wide green building target.

Although Sydney, Tokyo, and Hong Kong performed well on the green city culture and environment criteria, Sydney and Hong Kong were negatively affected with the poor results they achieved on their green building landscape and performance.

Sydney, with 67, had the fewest absolute number of green buildings in the city.

Finally, Dubai, Beijing, and Shanghai were the last cities on the Top 10 list. These three cities are among the most recent to join the green building movement, and Solidiance analysts expect that these rankings will change in the future as these newer ‘green building cities’ are setting ambitious targets in order to catch up to other cities’ levels.

Dubai launched its local green building standard last among these 10 Global Cities, in 2010, resulting in fewer locally certified buildings (8th), and only launched its green building regulations and specifications in 2012.

Despite the slow start, Dubai ranks 5th in internationally certified green buildings (104), and has a total of 147 internationally and locally certified green buildings erected on its cityscape. Dubai already ranks 6th for ‘green buildings as a percentage of total buildings’

The current green building development has been focused on new buildings but is shifting towards existing buildings,” said Vincent Cheng, director of building sustainability at ARUP, Hong Kong, an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists. “For significant progress, the focus of stakeholders in Hong Kong should shift from new to existing buildings which make up the bulk of the building stock. Potentially, more effort can be made to incentivize sustainability for existing buildings, promote microgrid/ renewable systems to reduce dependence on coal-powered electricity, and divert waste from precious landfill space.

When considering the limited number of years that Beijing, Dubai and Shanghai have been working to green their built stock, the achievements of these cities are profound, especially when considering the large number of highly internationally-certified buildings currently standing within these cities,” says Solidiance, explaining the rankings.

Saeed Al Abbar, chairman of the Emirates Green Building Council, United Arab Emirates, states in the study, “It is important to note that a building can be sustainable and incorporate green best practices without having a certification behind it. Certifications, however, are useful tools for measurement and can serve as guidelines for best practice. Nonetheless, Dubai does not have a specific certification or rating systems such as Estidama in Abu Dhabi, but the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system is used and recognised broadly.”

By contrast, Singapore stood out as a pioneer in the industry by setting forth a comprehensive and bold set of policies and targets for greening the city’s built block.

As a city that has committed to greening 80 percent of its built stock by 2030, Singapore proved to be one of the most ambitious on the list of cities evaluated.

Finally, the assessment of the city-level green initiatives established that both Sydney and Hong Kong have set higher than average carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction targets amongst the 10 Global Cities, and have also proven themselves as they perform noticeably well with low CO2 emissions city-wide.

 Paris, Sydney, and Singapore take the highest ranking spots with regards to each city’s green building efficiency. This is due to the three cities not only being very low CO2-polluting cities in general, but also because they each have a very low percentage of emissions which can be attributed to the city’s built-environment.

Roughly eight to 10 million new buildings are constructed each year, worldwide, and now more of them are greener than ever before. Solidiance finds that the number of green buildings is doubling every three years as a response to the current accelerating demand for sustainability.

 Michael Scarpf, head of sustainable construction at the Swiss building materials giant LafargeHolcim told Solidiance, “Singapore and London are the cities which have the highest green building activity, and Costa Rica, France, Singapore, and the United Kingdom are the countries that witness high demand for green building materials.

Buildings are the largest energy-consuming sector, accounting for more than 40 percent of global energy use and responsible for an estimated 30 percent of city-wide emissions, calculates Solidance, which points out that buildings also hold the most promise for global energy savings.


 Featured image: Montparnasse Tower views: Les Invalides, Paris, France (Photo by David McSpadden) Creative Commons license via Flickr