University of Calgary

Lecturer examines consequences of e-waste

UToday HomeApril 4, 2013

By Ali Abel

How many mobile phones have you had in your lifetime? How many desktop and laptop computers, tablets or digital music players? What did you do with them when you upgraded each device? Did you just throw it in the trash or recycle it through a legitimate channel?

E-waste is a growing concern for countries around the world, and illegal e-waste recycling is a major concern of governments and companies the world over. On April 1, the Canadian Institute of Resources Law (CIRL) hosted Lieselot Bisschop from the University College Ghent in Belgium to present her lecture, The Illegal Transport of Electronic Waste: A Case Study of a European Trade Hub.

Bisschop’s research looks at the impact of the illegal transport of e-waste and how governments, corporations and individuals can potentially feed into the illegal transport of e-waste.

“Illegal e-waste recycling is a transnational environmental crime,” said Bisschop. “There is a lot of legislation on e-waste, and waste in general, which is part of the problem. In fact, 51 per cent of waste and e-waste shipments to non-OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries are illegal.”

E-waste impacts the receiving countries in a big way, from soil, air and water pollution in surrounding communities, to harming the health of humans, including the unprotected contact workers.

A lack of resources is one of the biggest issues in fighting the shipment of illegal e-waste. In Belgium, where Bisschop focused her research, the Port of Antwerp only has four environmental inspectors to check 10 million shipping containers going through the port each year.

“With the increasing demand for electronics in Alberta, Canada and the world, regulating the disposal of electronic waste is a significant environmental, health and safety issue in the context of sustainable development,” said Allan Ingelson, executive director of CIRL. “Dr. Bisschop’s presentation highlighted the importance of international co-operation to effectively respond to a global sustainability issue that merits more attention.”


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