United Nations: Microsoft Corp., Dell Inc. and 14 other companies joined the United Nations in a consortium to annually recycle or safely dispose of 40 million tonnes of electronic devices containing gold, silver, lead and mercury.
The initiative, called “Solving the E-Waste Problem,” will propose national laws to regulate the recycling of used electronic devices and develop global standards for the environmentally safe disposal of the e-scrap.
“We want to get a set of projects running in the next six months,” said Christian Hagelueken, senior manager for Brussels- based Umicore SA, the world’s largest precious-metals recycler. “The idea is to collect data and work in harmony. In Europe, for example, you have 29 nations with their own legislation.”
Computers, televisions, radios, cell phones, coffee makers, microwave ovens and hair dryers contain precious metals as well as rare elements such as indium and bismuth whose prices have doubled since 2005 because few electronic devices are recycled, according to the UN. The price of ruthenium, a metal found in platinum ore and used in computer hard drives, has increased seven-fold in two years, the UN said.
The UN Environmental Programme is also concerned about toxins released into the air by burning plastic and wire insulation, and pollutants including lead and mercury that enter the water and soil when electronic devices are put in landfills.
Other comapnies that have joined the group include Stockholm-based Ericsson AB, Palo Alto, California-based Hewlett-Packard Co., and San Jose, California-based Cisco Systems Inc.