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Many electronics recycled at free events are destined for recycling in developing nations

The recycling of damaged and obsolete electronic devices has been a hot topic here in America. Many states and environmental watchdog agencies want to keep potentially hazardous materials out of the landfills in America. The issue is that it is possible that hazardous materials used in electronics could seep into the ground water.

To help prevent electronics from ending up in landfills, there have been many recycling events held around the U.S. that are sponsored by electronics makers and are sometimes sponsored by companies who plan to recycle the products for their plastics, glass, and precious metals.

USA Today reports that activists are warning that items collected at free electronic recycling events are often ending up in salvage yards in developing nations. Barbara Kyle, national coordinator for the Electronics TakeBack Coalition says, “If nobody is paying (the collectors) to take this stuff, especially if they're getting a lot of televisions, then they are very likely exporting because that's how they make the economics work.”

The fear activists have is that the electronics that end up in developing nations will be recycled by laborers who will be exposed to toxic substances and where the toxic substances could leech into the ground water. The laborers who harvest the electronics are only paid dollars per day according to activists.

Don’t feel bad for receiving free recycling services though. The companies recycling the obsolete electronics are not doing it out of the kindness of their hearts or to make the world a better place -- it’s done for profits.

Most of the companies offering free recycling are mining the products for precious metals like gold and silver. Some electronics recycling firms mine more gold form e-waste like cell phones than is produced from a gold mine.

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RE: I wish I had thought of it...
By sgw2n5 on 7/7/2008 8:43:59 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, absolutely. I wouldn't say that you could drink molecular mercury without harm (i think something like 5% is absorbed into tissue in the gastrointestinal tract), and it doesn't take much to induce CNS depression. It is, however, MUUUUUCH safer than organic mercury derivatives, diethyl mercury comes to mind, a few ug of that and your pretty much screwed.

The bigger problem with metalic mercury is that even at 21C, if left open, it is 100% volatile.

Pb, on the other hand, is relatively easy to deal with. The correct filter can remove nearly all of it from solution and/or air (which is good for me, i lived in southern MO). As far as a more benign form goes, its still dangerous to ingest, but halogen salts are the norm for intermediates during purification/recycling.

Depends on what you want (or what would be more economically feasible) to do with it. Recycling heavy metals is usually the cheapest way to go, pending what medium they are in.

RE: I wish I had thought of it...
By masher2 on 7/7/2008 10:46:17 PM , Rating: 2
> "I wouldn't say that you could drink molecular mercury without harm (i think something like 5% is absorbed into tissue in the gastrointestinal tract)..."

No. A few hundred years ago, people still regularly drank a few tablespoons-full of mercury for use as a laxative. There are recorded cases of people drinking over a pint at a single sitting.

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA
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