E-waste, short for electronic waste, is a term used to describe end-of-life electronic products. In recent years there has been a sharp rise in the demand for electronic products, and production has ramped up to meet the demand. A landslide of e-waste is being generated in tandem, exacerbated by increased global access to electronic devices, quickening innovation rates, and device obsolescence. According to projections by the UN’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020, e-waste is the most rapidly growing domestic waste-stream in the world. Due to the hazardous nature of the components contained in many electronic products, the proper handling of e-waste disposal is imperative to protect both the environment and human health. Unfortunately, the proper recycling and disposal of e-waste can be costly, which has resulted in the dumping of e-waste onto economically disadvantaged countries. The dumping of e-waste onto countries with less means to decline it, and without the means to safely dispose of it, leads to negative ramifications for local environments and for the health of local populations. Many countries have imposed regulations attempting to address the issues presented by the global e-waste explosion. In 2018, China enacted a robust ban on solid waste imports. The 2018 ban resulted in over two hundred criminal cases and sanctions being imposed on over eight hundred companies. Although this ban proved effective in reducing the flood of e-waste into China, it revealed that nation-wide bans cannot currently resolve the issue of dumping alone. E-waste which previously would have been transported to China simply was diverted to countries with less regulation. Both China and the European Union have implemented Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations to regulate e-waste. EPR places responsibility for the collection and proper disposal of e-waste onto the producers of electronic products. Despite an extensive and long-standing body of regulation addressing e-waste through EPR, e-waste continues to be one of the fastest growing domestic waste streams. Two methods which may better address global e-waste management are the use of the All Actors Approach and the establishment of ecocide as an international crime.
The Largest Global Producers of E-Waste And the Need for Change,
48 Brook. J. Int'l L.
Available at: https://brooklynworks.brooklaw.edu/bjil/vol48/iss1/3