- On Aug. 29, an investigation funded by the European Union was released, reporting that Europeans disposed of only 35% of electronic waste properly in 2012. That's 3.3 million of 9.45 million tons. The rest wound up in landfills and black market sales and exports, which can lead to economic, environmental and health problems.
- Proper disposal methods exist, but many consumers and companies don’t use them, according to the 56-page report, "Countering Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Illegal Trade."
- The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Forum Secretary-General Pascal Leroy told Newsweek that the problem is hard to tackle because e-waste violators are not always major corporations or organized crime units. "It’s basically a very distributed nature of small illegal activities with high frequency," Leroy said. "So it’s very distributed individuals, small companies, small trading companies, doing illegal things."
Improperly discarded electronic waste is a global problem. A United Nations study this year said that China and the United States were the worst offenders in 2014, Newsweek reported.
But there's opportunity in recycling, as the global e-waste market is projected to grow to $5.04 billion by 2020.
Jaco Huisman, a scientific coordinator on the investigation, said money is the reason for the low rates. "It is the economic drivers steering it in the wrong direction," he told Newsweek. There are costs to sorting, testing and packaging items for proper disposal, and illegal resale values can be profitable. As for individual consumers not disposing properly, he says, "That’s just laziness."
Leroy and Huisman propose new ways of monitoring and responding to e-waste crimes, and recommend countries ban cash transactions for scrap metal. They also want to educate consumers and train law enforcement and criminal justice systems in how to deal with such crimes.