Posts Tagged ‘e-waste’


Green issues are sometimes complex.  We need to recycle many things, like electronics, but we certainly don’t want to poison others in the process.  Efforts to protect the environment and conserve valuable resources must be coupled with proper health and safety procedures.  Unfortunately, just saying this doesn’t make it happen.  Developing countries are becoming a dumping ground for much toxic waste and proper environmental health and safety is being ignored, both by local opportunists and suppliers of e-Waste from developed nations.  From Greenpeace:

This shocking documentary from Greenpeace shows how “second hand goods” exported to Ghana for reuse are actually causing horrendous pollution. “People in the developed countries bring them here to bridge the digital gap but in actual fact they are creating a digital dump.”

Ghana — The latest place where we have discovered high tech toxic trash causing horrendous pollution is in Ghana. Our analysis of samples taken from two electronic waste (e-waste) scrap yards in Ghana has revealed severe contamination with hazardous chemicals.

Similar problems occur in China and, surprisingly, even in developed countries.  See related information about toxic waste dumps all over the world here.

However, you can also read good news about environmental protection in Europe and the effect it is having on US companies.

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Original text copyright © 2008 James K. Bashkin


Basel Action Network, named after an agreement on protecting developing countries from toxic waste, criticized 1-800-Got-junk for failing to promise that their free electronic waste recycling program would avoid shipping toxic waste to developing countries.

The story about the Basel Action Network (BAN) vs. 1-800-Got-Junk is supplemented by the following to give a snapshot of where we stand with “good” and “bad” recycling:

  1. Why and how to recycle your electronics
  2. The recycling program that pays you back heads to Europe
  3. Cell Phone Recycling Giant “Pace Butler” will integrate its efforts with environmental groups
  4. Toxic Waste being Dumped in Italy
  5. How to Recycle Plastic- Advice from the EPA
  6. Eight Ways to Green Your Technology
  7. Toxic E-waste Pouring into the Third World
  8. New Biodegradable Plastics could be Tossed into the Sea
  9. Planetsave | China’s Toxic E-Waste Problem Grows Daily

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© James K. Bashkin, 2008

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As reported by Environmental News Service and noted on DIGG by carbonneutral and rhedhed, the “New York City Council passed legislation Wednesday that makes New York the first major municipality in the nation to tackle the rising tide of discarded electronics in the waste stream. Manufacturers of computers, TVs and MP3 players will have to take responsibility for the collection of their own electronic products.”

This is an important step and will help the city deal with with huge amount of discarded electronics it sees every year while preventing much of the current pollution of landfill sites.  We need to avoid circumstances like those found in China, where illegal electronics recycling is causing far more harm than good.

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Millions of tons of toxic e-waste from around the world are finding their way onto streets and alleyways in Chinese villages as peasants eke out a living reclaiming precious metals from electronic equipment. What isn’t reclaimed goes into unregulated dumping grounds. Reported by AP and others, this is the flip-side of recycling: a good idea, poorly executed, is leaving massive heath problems and environmental problems in China. Frankly, this kind of work needs to be done in moderately or highly sophisticated facilities, not in peoples houses or in unregulated, improperly outfitted facilities. Of course, the same exploitation of Western countries occurred for many years, but we are trying to stop it (and have succeeded in many cases).  China would do well to learn from our more unfortunate tales of industrialization.

Who are we to judge? People whose countries have been there, done that, and seen enough (for the most part).  Of course, the Western world could do much better, too, but the situation reported here is just awful. The resulting health damage and eventual environmental cleanup will costs billions. Doing things properly to start with might require some capital investment, but it is necessary.

© James K. Bashkin, 2007

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