Global E-Waste Dumping - How Does It Occur?

by James Kao - Date: 2006-12-28 - Word Count: 470 Share This!

When people "donate" or "recycle" electronics and computers, they do so with good intentions, and they don't expect their electronics to be part of the global dumping of e-waste. But many items and parts that are collected in the name of "recycling" are in fact being dumped.

What is going on?

According to the Basel Action Network, there are 500 40-foot containers of used electronics and computers are being shipped from U.S. and Europe to Lagos, Nigeria, each month. There are also large volumes of used electronics being sent to other developing countries such as China, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Cambodia, and the Ivory Coast.

The vast majority of items in these shipments are NOT reused, recycled, or bridging the digital divide, because most of them are unusable. In Lagos, local officials estimate that 80% of these electronics items are thrown away immediately upon arrival.

Due to poverty and lack of environmental regulation and enforcement, these unusable electronics, which contain very toxic materials, are thrown in the swamp by local people or burned in open piles. This causes contamination of water and soil in the area and major health problems for the local population, including cancer and birth defects.

This is a very real problem. In areas such as Guiyu, China, the water has been undrinkable since the mid-1990's because the water is so contaminated from toxic e-waste dumped there.

Some "recyclers" will offer to take your old computers and electronics for free, but there is not enough value from the precious metals and other raw materials that can be produced through the proper recycling your used electronics.

So these "recyclers" do not recycle everything properly. These "recyclers" are only interested in those parts that they can take out and sell for profits. They don't really care about the environmental impact of the "processing" of their items.

After taking the most immediately valuable parts, they sell the rest of the obsolete computers and electronics brokers that represent companies in developing countries. These brokers are interested in the next level of salvageable parts and items and then sell the rest to the next set of brokers. Eventually, the most useless e-waste is sold to the poorest nations. That is how goods end up in Lagos, Nigeria.

That is how dumping occurs everyday.

To do your part to stop the global dumping of e-waste, ask direct questions. Ask a recycler or entity accepting donations what exactly they do to make sure that your old computers and other electronics are not sold to unscrupulous secondary brokers. Ask a recycler or entity accepting donations if they are willing to guarantee in writing that no part of your used electronics will end up as e-waste dumped in developing countries.

You need to make sure that they give a complete solution, and are not just reselling a few parts while contributing the global dumping of the rest.

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