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Electronic waste (e-waste) - from computers, televisions, telephones, cell phones, electronic toys, and other sources - is posing a new management challenge to Asia and the Pacific. E-waste is currently one of the fastest growing segments of solid waste.

The quantities involved are vast. Four million personal computers are discarded every year in China (UNEP RRCAP 2004). In India e-waste worth US$1 500 million was generated in 2003 (UNEP RRCAP 2004).

Disposal of e-waste is a serious problem, because it often contains toxic substances such as mercury, cadmium and lead which contaminate the environment and pose a danger to human health. It is often buried in landfills, where pollutants can leach into soils and groundwater, or burned in incinerators forming dangerous compounds (UNEP RRCAP 2004). The problem is compounded by unregulated informal sector enterprises which handle e-waste improperly, endangering themselves and the environment.

National level initiatives on e-waste exist in some countries of the sub-region including China, India and Japan. Most initiatives are at the initial stages and require technical assistance and intergovernmental cooperation. So far, there is no regional level intergovernmental initiative on e-waste management in Asia and the Pacific (UNEP RRCAP 2004).

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