Ground Report | New Delhi: At least 18 million children; The proliferation of electronic devices has also led to the expansion of their waste due to our tendency to replace them rather than repairing them. In fact, as a recent report by UNICEF points out, these devices are often designed to “make it difficult to repair”, encouraging their replacement and the flow of related waste.
In this sense, the UNICEF document states that in 2019 some 53.6 million tons of electrical and electronic waste were generated worldwide, representing an increase of 21% in the last five years. By 2030, they expect the quantities to reach 74.7 million tons.
The problem is that all this waste contains valuable materials such as gold, silver, or palladium that are clandestinely sought by families with few resources in impoverished countries where this type of waste is usually sent. For UNICEF, earnings are sometimes the only livelihood for families.
Within family nuclei, children are not an exception to work and in their report, they estimate that of the 152 million children between 5 and 17 years of age work, 18 million, 11.9%, do so in the industrial sector, which includes waste processing. At the same time, 73 million children around the world perform hazardous work, with an unknown number in the underground waste recycling sector.
“In the same way that the world has come together to protect the seas and their ecosystems from pollution by plastics and microplastics, we must come together to protect our most valuable resource, the health of our children, from the ever-increasing danger of electronic waste. ” Says the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
As for women, it is estimated that between 2.9 and 12.9 million women participate in the clandestine waste sector, including an unknown number of women of pregnancy age.
Likewise, it states that only 17.4% of the electrical and electronic waste produced in 2019 reached formal management or recycling systems. The rest was disposed of in illegal landfills, nationally or internationally, or was recycled by clandestine workers. (At least 18 million children)
“Primitive recycling processes often lack security measures and personal protective equipment. Both serious environmental pollution and risks to human health are associated with electrical and electronic waste sites ”, highlights the UNICEF text.
All of this occurs when international conventions, such as those of Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm, prohibit the commercial use and transboundary movement of certain hazardous substances such as those found in electronic waste.
For this reason, the report calls for the establishment of a “ solid and binding instrument ” with the objective that exporters, importers, and governments ensure that electronic waste is disposed of in a rational and benign way for the environment, health, and safety of workers and communities.
It also urges the health sector to reduce the adverse effects of e-waste by building capacity to diagnose, monitor, and prevent toxic exposures, and advocates for better health data and research on the risks faced by informal workers. dealing with e-waste. (At least 18 million children)
“Children and adolescents have the right to grow and learn in a healthy environment, and exposure to electrical and electronic waste and its many toxic components unquestionably impacts that right,” says Maria Neira, director of the Department of the Environment, Climate Change and Health. of the WHO.
In addition to protecting the environment and people’s health, better recycling also presents opportunities to increase income and decrease the demand for new materials. According to the report, up to $ 57 billion in raw materials could have been recovered in 2019 if electrical and electronic waste had been optimally recycled while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.