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Tech waste hazards in Guatemala

Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - 09:06:47

The proliferation of electronic waste in Guatemala is causing serious problems for the country, which has joined the UK and several other nations, in having more mobile phones than people active at any one time.

With the growing availability of portable gadgets and larger household electronics, there are inevitably increasing needs when it comes to disposal of outgoing products. However, IPS News reports that Guatemala is ill equipped to handle this type of recycling and that the hazardous materials used in things like mobile phones can be harmful, if improperly disposed of.

Dumped microwaves, fridges, mobile phones and other items end up in landfill sites and, more problematically, rivers. This leads to chrome, lead, mercury and even arsenic being brought into contact with the outside world, which can lead to serious illness and even death, if exposure is sustained.

One expert said that the Guatemalan authorities do not have any regulations in place to handle the disposal of solid waste, let alone any kind of centralised scheme for recycling these types of products, which is only exacerbating the problem.

The uptake of mobile phones in Guatemala has been rapid, with usage rising from 3.1 million in 2004 to over 20 million last year. Given that there are only 14 million people living there, it is clear that over saturation and upgrading is leading to problems.

Fifty thousand litres of water can be contaminated by a single mobile phone battery, according to a report from Greenpeace.

There is ongoing work to try and improve the e-waste issues which are plaguing Guatemala at the moment, but hopefully, better recycling services and more public information will help.

Troubling situations like this should also encourage people in the UK to carefully recycle their unwanted mobile phones and other gadgets, to avoid a similar set of circumstances.




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