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The global impact of e-waste: Addressing the challenge

Electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) is currently the largest growing waste stream. It is hazardous, complex and expensive to treat in an environmentally sound manner, and there is a general lack of legislation or enforcement surrounding it.

Today, most e-waste is being discarded in the general waste stream. Of the e-waste in developed countries that is sent for recycling, 80 per cent ends up being shipped (often illegally) to developing countries to be recycled by hundreds of thou-sands of informal workers. Such globalization of e-waste has adverse environmental and health implications.This paper explores the volumes, sources and flows of e-waste, the risks it poses to e-waste workers and the environment, occupational safety and health issues, labour issues and regulatory frameworks, and links this growing global problem with the International Labour Organization’s current and future work.