Your used iphones and ipods aren't just an environmental hazard; they're also big business for criminals, according to a new UN study. A United Nations report released Tuesday details a burgeoning multibillion-dollar criminal business where as much as 90 percent of the world's electronic waste, everything from used computers to smartphones, is illegally traded or dumped at some point along the disposal line.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) much of the e-waste ends up in Africa and Asia. "We are witnessing an unprecedented amount of electronic waste rolling out over the world. Not only does it account for a large portion of the world's non-recycled waste mountain, but it also poses a growing threat to human health and the environment, due to the hazardous elements it contains," said Achim Steiner, U.N. Undersecretary-General and executive director of UNEP.
About 41.8 million metric tons of e-waste was generated in 2014, and could increase to 50 metric tons by 2018. A staggering 60 percent to 90 percent of e-waste is illegally traded or dumped, amounting to as much nearly $19 billion annually according to the report. E-waste is often mixed in with other waste, such as plastics, to hide it or simply labeled as less hazardous waste to circumvent regulations.
The reports call attention to the problem and calls for greater intervention from law enforcement agencies as well as NGOs and environmental groups to combat the problem.