Electronic waste, or e-waste, is an emerging problem as well as a business opportunity of increasing significance, given the volumes of e-waste being generated and the content of both toxic and valuable materials in them. The fraction including iron, copper, aluminium, gold and other metals in e-waste is over 60%, while pollutants comprise 2.70
Given the high toxicity of these pollutants especially when burned or recycled in uncontrolled environments, the Basel Convention has identified e-waste as hazardous, and developed a framework for controls on transboundary movement of such waste. The Basel Ban, an amendment to the Basel Convention that has not yet come into force, would go one step further by prohibiting the export of e-waste from developed to industrializing countries.
The three countries are compared using an assessment indicator system which takes into account the structural framework, the recycling system and its various impacts. Three key points have emerged from the assessments so far: a) e-waste recycling has developed in all countries as a market based activity, b) in China and India it is based on small to medium-sized enterprises (SME) in the informal sector, whereas in South Africa it is in the formal sector, and c) each country is trying to overcome shortcomings in the current system by developing strategies for improvement.
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