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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 wordsworm on 7/7/2008 10:59:36 PM , Rating: 2
Did the environment do something really mean to you when you were a kid? It doesn't matter what it is: nuclear waste, lead, mercury, and CO2? Just throw it where ever it lands. What exactly do you have against a clean earth? Do you invest in cancer treatment drugs and see all these contaminants as future profit? Lead contamination is a serious problem around the world.

Just try poking your nose around for just a few of the major problems we face over it:
problems with lead: http://www.epa.gov/OGWDW/lead/lead1.html
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/06/27/2288...
http://www.metrokc.gov/health/providers/arseniclea...

mercury: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/06081...

These are just some of the common contaminants found in electronics. Arsenic and cadmium are a few others.

Electronics are often melted with acid to get at the gold and silver that they contain. The acid used is then often dumped into nearby rivers. This is serious pollution. But what of it, right? People can't *stand* the idea of having to pay money out of *their* pocket so that some measure of responsibility is taken to make sure that their gear isn't killing animal life? Or does nature simply not interest you? These are serious problems.


RE: I wish I had thought of it...
By masher2 (blog) on 7/7/2008 11:19:47 PM , Rating: 2
> " It doesn't matter what it is: nuclear waste, lead, mercury, and CO2? Just throw it where ever it lands. What exactly do you have against a clean earth? "

The only thing being thrown here is bombastic tripe. CO2 is about the cleanest compound known to man...which is good, because you yourself have generated a few pounds today alone (oh, the horror!). CO2 is so safe, in fact, we intentionally inject thousands of tons of it into our food and drink (what do you think puts the fizz in your soda?)

As for lead and mercury, where do you think they came from in the first place? That's right...the earth itself. Egads!

If we dig up some lead, slap it on a circuit board, and that board winds up in a landfill, the earth is right back where it started. Net change: zero.

> "Electronics are often melted with acid to get at the gold and silver that they contain. The acid used is then often dumped into nearby rivers"

A problem caused by pudding-headed environmentalists, who refuse to let us deal with those electronics here at home. So they're instead shipped overseas, to be recycled under dangerous conditions.


RE: I wish I had thought of it...
By wordsworm on 7/8/2008 8:48:03 AM , Rating: 2
Engarde!

What anti-environmentalist nacho brained folks don't get is that when lead is in ore, it's usually encased in rock and rarely, if ever, sees the light of day. Lead from components, on the other hand, are exposed to elements which cause it to break down, toxify soil and water.

This isn't bombastic tripe, they're facts - we are damaging the environment in a serious way. True, a volcano can damage the environment. True, CO2 for the most part is innocuous. Too much of anything, however, is usually fatal. A man dying from thirst doesn't want to drown (although I hear it's a better way to die). It can factually be substantiated that the CO2 in the environment is higher due to our anthropomorphic effect. It can also be substantiated that it's damaging. Do I really need to include citations? This stuff is pretty elementary knowledge.

In any case, I have proposed for a long time the idea of putting a retrievable deposit on all purchases. You buy a TV? Deposit $25, which would be returned when you return it for recycling. A system like this would surely be the most effective. Even helium headed anti-environmentalists would be moved to recycle their goods and subsequently save the environment from serious pollutants. However, as you so keenly put it, there's the other side - the pudding headed environmentalists. Guys like Al Gore really give environmentalists a bad name. There are plenty of Green Peace folks who give it a bad name (despite the fact that there are plenty of them who are doing good work to fight some very big problems - such as oceanic dumping).

Anyways, don't believe me? Grind up an old motherboard, sprinkle it over some soil, and see what grows. If you can get so much as a dandelion to grow, I'll be happy to hear of it.


By masher2 (blog) on 7/8/2008 9:52:22 AM , Rating: 2
> "What anti-environmentalist nacho brained folks don't get is that when lead is in ore, it's usually encased in rock and rarely, if ever, sees the light of day"

Eh? Have you ever seen a galena deposit? It's not somehow hermetically sealed in rock, the lead ore itself *is* the rock. Quite often that galena is exposed directly to the surface, and even when it isn't, it is *always* exposed to ground water runoff...water that eventually winds up in lakes and streams.

> "Lead from components, on the other hand, are exposed to elements which cause it to break down, toxify soil and water"

What in the world do you think lead solder "breaks down" into? It's **already** broken down into elemental form.

> " True, CO2 for the most part is innocuous. Too much of anything, however, is usually fatal"

Yes, a CO2 level of 250,000 ppm in the atmosphere would likely be fatal. However, we could burn every shred of coal and oil on the planet, and we're not going to get above 3000ppm or so, making your point entirely moot.

> " It can also be substantiated that it's damaging. Do I really need to include citations? "

Increased CO2 in the atmosphere has far more beneficial effects than damaging ones, including increased plant growth, agricultural benefits, and many others. Here's a summary of research demonstrating such -- it contains citations to well over 100 papers:

http://www.oism.org/pproject/GWReview_OISM300.pdf


RE: I wish I had thought of it...
By purefat on 7/8/2008 9:36:22 AM , Rating: 2
CO2 (carbon dioxide) is hazardous because along with CH4(methane) are the main causes of the greenhosue effect. Although CO2 contributes to the greenhouse efefct to a much leeser extent (I heard that methane is 400 times more effective but I am not sure), it sure is a threat.

quote:
CO2 is so safe, in fact, we intentionally inject thousands of tons of it into our food and drink (what do you think puts the fizz in your soda?)

Well, the amount of CO2 injected in food and soda is incomparable to the amount of CO2 emmited to the atmosphere, the second being infinetly larger.

quote:
If we dig up some lead, slap it on a circuit board, and that board winds up in a landfill, the earth is right back where it started. Net change: zero.

You're oversimplifying
It's not about the amount of lead there is in the earth, but its form. For example chlorine ( Cl )is a hazardous gas that can cause heavy damage if inhaled. However, there are tons of it in the sea in the form of salt (Na Cl ), and in every household as bleach (Na Cl O). The same applies to lead. It exists in the earth but in the form of harmless compounds.

quote:
A problem caused by pudding-headed environmentalists, who refuse to let us deal with those electronics here at home. So they're instead shipped overseas, to be recycled under dangerous conditions.


The goal of the 'pudding-headed environmentalists' is to have the electronics recycled and not thrown in recycled. The fact that they are processed in a hazardous way is a side effect, that as mentioned in the article the 'pudding-headed environmentalists' are trying to prevent.

I am a European reader and I am really amazed by the fact that nearly all US blogs/sites/etc think that global warming and other environmental problems, are non-issues, while the media coverage in Europe is alarming to say the least. I am not a scientist, so I cannot tell who is right, but I must say that the disastrous effects of the greenhouse effect are in high school textbooks in my homeland (Greece) for over a decade. The Scandinavian countries are investing real money to alternative power sources to prevnt greenhouse gas emissions, and EU funding is rather generous. I am sure that they don't want to just throw money away.


By masher2 (blog) on 7/8/2008 10:03:19 AM , Rating: 2
> "The same applies to lead. It exists in the earth but in the form of harmless compounds."

I'm sorry, but you've obviously not taken a geology or a chemistry class. First of all, most heavy metal compounds (lead, mercury, etc) are *more* toxic than the base metals themselves. Secondly, galena (lead ore) is not only directly toxic, but when it weathers, elemtnal lead itself can leach directly into water, and/or the ore converts into lead carbonate (the compound which made lead-based paints toxic) or the even more toxic lead sulfate, which can cause heavy metal poisoning through direct skin contact, without even needing to be ingested.


By masher2 (blog) on 7/8/2008 10:05:42 AM , Rating: 2
> "Well, the amount of CO2 injected in food and soda is incomparable to the amount of CO2 emmited to the atmosphere, the second being infinetly larger"

True enough...and the amount of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere by mother nature is still infinitely larger than that generated by man. Human sources still only account of 3% or less of total GHG emissions.


RE: I wish I had thought of it...
By dever on 7/10/2008 5:55:37 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The Scandinavian countries are investing real money to alternative power sources to prevnt greenhouse gas emissions, and EU funding is rather generous. I am sure that they don't want to just throw money away.
You are a trusting soul aren't you? Yes, governments are "generous" with other people's money. I don't call this generosity.

You've inadvertantly stumbled upon the answer. It's all about the money. Billions and billions of dollars are siphoned from the citizens, circumventing individual choices in the free market and exploiting the corruption inherant in concentrated power. This money is distributed at the whim of a few politicians to those who are in the best position to lobby for it.


"If you mod me down, I will become more insightful than you can possibly imagine." -- Slashdot

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