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UN meeting to address “e-waste” problem

A United Nations conference is set to debate measures to tackle the mountain of “e-waste”, the millions of tonnes of disused electronic and computer equipment generated worldwide each year.

Representatives of more than 160 countries are meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, where the Basel Convention UN Environment Programme is based.

The meeting is aiming to produce a global strategy to tackle the problem of e-waste. It will debate a series of proposals, including measures that could require computer and electronic equipment manufacturers to take more responsibility for the safe disposal of their products.

Between 20 million and 50 million tonnes of used computers, printers, mobile phones and televisions pile up each year, with much it shipped to the developing world.

Experts warn that the old equipment is often unusable junk, and its disposal causes environmental hazards, with toxic fumes and dangerous chemicals – such as lead, cadmium and mercury – released into the air and soil.

Sachiko Kuwabara Yamamoto, head of the Basel Convention, said, “We want developing countries to receive usable items”, but added that the question of who paid for the disposal of junk equipment was “a big issue”.

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