Electric and electronic waste (e-waste) is the fastest growing waste stream worldwide: 50 million tons of electronic waste each year. Part of it is exported, often illegally, from industrialised countries to e-waste hubs like Ghana, Nigeria, India, and China. E-waste often contains both valuable metals as well as toxic substances. The high value of metal is the main reason for imports by countries like Ghana, Nigeria, and China. However, the recycling methods in these countries are not tailored to responsible recycling of the toxic elements of e-waste, thereby causing major negative environmental and health effects. Also, the recycling methods in those countries are less efficient, which leads to the loss of valuable metals and to an increase in the mining of virgin metals. In this way the e-waste problem is directly related to the social and environmental problems at the beginning of the electronics chain. This article explores the e-waste problem from a value chain perspective and proposes policy measures that could diminish Europe's contribution to the problem.
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