Print 9 comment(s) - last by Jarhead.. on Oct 2 at 8:42 PM

E-waste is becoming a serious problem that the United States must begin to fight against

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the U.S. regulators aren't doing enough to stop used computers, monitors and other electronic products that have toxic materials which could cause safety hazards for foreign workers.  To make matters worse, the U.S. and other nations are sending the electronic devices to other nations with little enforcement or regulation.

E-waste exposure can cause health issues to workers because of lead exposure and other dangers.  Mercury and cadmium exposure are two other serious safety hazards facing the workers in China, India, Vietnam and other nations that dispose of the electronics.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) isn't doing enough to help reduce the high number of discarded electronics that are exported and disposed of improperly in other nations.  

"Concerns have mounted that not all recycling is conducted responsibly, particularly in developing countries, and that some U.S. recyclers and exporters may be at fault," the GAO said in a report for the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The 63-page GAO report was requested by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D, Calif.), who has held several different hearings on the topic already, with more in the works.

During the investigation, 43 companies agreed to export broken CRT monitors overseas, in violation of a 60-day grace period issued by the EPA, when GAO investigators posed as willing buyers.  The investigators contacted a total of 343 companies via e-mail during the investigation.  Since 2007, police authorities in Hong Kong have intercepted and detained at least 26 containers of broken CRTs.

As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continues to remind people in the United States of the analog to digital television transition next year, there could be 20 million analog TVs sent overseas for disassembly.  The EPA, which has been mildly insulted because of the report, plans to continue to make sure all electronics with cathode-ray tubes are disposed of properly, for the safety of the workers and the surrounding community.

The toxic materials located in discarded monitors or TVs often times are not serious concerns until the product is disassembled, where the toxins find their way into the air or into a local water stream.

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One man's trash...
By Denithor on 9/18/2008 8:38:39 AM , Rating: 5
...provides work for many people in developing countries.

I agree we need to ensure ewaste gets recycled correctly but we also don't want to disrupt an economy in another country that depends on the revenue created from dismantling our old toys.

Perhaps instead of limiting or preventing our export of these goods we should help the target countries establish safe methods for recycling.

RE: One man's trash...
By Staples on 9/18/2008 9:20:00 AM , Rating: 2
I think in addition, a lot of this stuff gets thrown in the trash. A lot of people do not realize this stuff is toxic and needs to be disposed of correctly. In this city, most people do not even know there is a hazardous waste drop off because there is zero advertizing for it other than on the local government channel (which no one ever watches). We are talking about a city of 1.5m. I always cringe when I hear locals say they change their own oil because of the people I have asked the question of where they dispose of it, almost all have said they dump it in the alley. As far as computer parts, I just give them to goodwill working or not. I believe they have a legal obligation to recycle them.

RE: One man's trash...
By Don Tonino on 9/18/2008 9:22:12 AM , Rating: 2
The answer to that could be Design for Disassembly, which doesn't necessarily cater to foreign disassemblers, but could still be a useful approach to make things more easily and safely disassembled and thus cheaper to recycle. The reason of this 'trash' becoming wealth in poorer countries is that where these things are disposed off, it would be way to expensive to disassemble them to be profitable, mainly due to labor cost. Making it easier will make it also cheaper, with an higher gain to be made. Of course, this comes at higher research and design costs, costs that will be judged by the customers.

RE: One man's trash...
By foolsgambit11 on 9/18/2008 1:53:11 PM , Rating: 2
Of course, it could provide work for many people in the U.S., since the price advantage foreign 'recyclers' get would be greatly reduced if they actually had to recycle the waste they were getting.

RE: One man's trash...
By Oregonian2 on 9/18/2008 5:28:09 PM , Rating: 2
I agree we need to ensure ewaste gets recycled correctly but we also don't want to disrupt an economy in another country that depends on the revenue created from dismantling our old toys.

Especially when our toys were perhaps made in and came from that other country.

RE: One man's trash...
By phxfreddy on 9/18/2008 7:08:39 PM , Rating: 2
GeeSus is there no end the meddling of our bureaucrat / political class ?

This stuff is NOT going to get recycled if it stays in the states. We are much too dainty.

RE: One man's trash...
By Jarhead on 10/2/2008 8:42:04 PM , Rating: 2
I can't find the article, but one of the engineers that head up NASA's environmentally friendly programs, had done a study and clearly explained how much more dangerous ROHS compliant solders are on the environment, than regular tin-lead solders, and it basically quite clearly showed what a bad move it was for the environment. I wish I could find it.

" According to John Burke,, the US Environmental protection agency "Report on Solders in Electronics: A Life-Cycle Assessment" (472 pages) published August 2005 shows that the replacement for “leaded” solder generally referred to as “SAC alloy” has a greater impact on the environment than tin lead solder in a number of areas such as non-renewable resource use, energy use, global warming, ozone depletion, and water quality."

A number of lead-free solders (ROHS compliant) besides SAC, also have additional elements, that are even worse for the environment than lead is.

I wish folks would take the time to do the right things, instead of jumping on emotional bandwagons.

Some more really cool problems that ROHS introduces is well summarized here, by Dr. Johnson, a well respected expert in electronic design circles:

A lot of these overseas "recycling" "facilities" are nothing more than dumps. I've see litteral mountains of electronics covering acres of ground, just sitting out in the open, meanwhile the weather and environment slowly decompose the materials, creating essentially toxic sites. I'd like to see them complete the full circle, and actually do the recycling, and recovering the materials for re-use.

If you visit the link I mentioned above, don't be surprised to come away with the understanding that ROHS helps create a throw-away situation, which helps the manufactures to sell you new products to replace the ones that mysteriously fail...

In india
By Souka on 9/18/2008 5:14:15 PM , Rating: 2
I saw a nice program on PBS/Discovery about how countires like US/Canada/EU are sending their old ships to Inda for disposal instead of doing so in their own country.

Why? Because if the US wants to dismantle a large cargo ship it requrires a tremendous number of workers, commities, unions, evniromental regulations, government oversight, etc...which result in a tremendous cost.

Instead, the ships are sold to India as scrap....and Inda beaches them on a shore and tear them apart. Tons of oil, abestos, lead, mercury, and other toxic materials are just left to wash out to sea.

Worker saftey and health is hardly a concern for the shipyard owners....workers might make a few $$ per week if they're lucky...during which they're exposed to toxic chemicals.

So I kinda laugh at the notion that a "crack down is needed"

My $.02

Here is a thought
By Kary on 9/19/2008 5:14:01 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe we could try making electronics without toxins:
...which should be pretty easy since RoHS already says we were supposed to have been since 2006

OR we could follow

...but that would probably just get the toxic waste shipped back to the same people dealing with it now.

OR we could just not send them any work and let them starve

Or, Hmmm, maybe we could just declare third world countries eco terrorists and nuke them

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins
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