The solar panel’s dark side

Measures are needed to protect people from toxic e-waste, write Jack Barrie and Melissa MacEwen

The World Today
2 minute READ

Melissa MacEwen

Former Programme Manager, Environment and Society Programme

A small amount of solar power can change the lives of those living in rural poverty without access to electricity. It provides light, enabling children to study at night, shops to stay open later and greater security for all. It enables phones to be charged, allows farmers to check the weather and watch online videos about sustainable farming practices. It powers radios and televisions so people can keep up to date on news.

The race is now on to deliver clean, affordable electricity to the 940 million people who lack access to it.

Tens of millions of off-grid solar systems are being sold in developing countries each year, and the market is expected to grow exponentially with predictions suggesting 740 million people will benefit by 2022.

While delivering clean electricity to the world’s poorest solves one problem, it creates another – an epidemic of toxic e-waste pollution. Why should we take it seriously?

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