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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 theapparition on 7/8/2008 7:49:32 AM , Rating: 2
Note also that there really is no monetary cost to speak of in going RoHS other than paperwork compliance issues.

So in the broad view, there really isn't much of any cost in getting rid of those toxic materials so the cost/benefit is good.


I mean, you have any clue?

RoHS has cost the electronics industry TRILLIONS of dollars, and much more is to come.

Let's start off.
All lead free solders require MUCH higher heat. This alone has forced manufacturers to redo much of their entire reflow lines. Parts that even weren't affected by the actual RoHS directive, may now not work because of the higher heat and will melt while reflowing. This has forced a complete analysis of each and every part on existing designs. The most affected parts are sensitive IC's that now fail after re-flow.

Rework is significantly more difficult. Once again because of the higher heat, solder pad delamination is much more common, and many companies won't even attempt rework on sensitive components, choosing instead to toss the assembly rather than waste time with a 20% rework yield. Who do you think pays for that scrap?

The lead free solders don't bond as well either, requiring a complete analysis of designs where environmental requirements are concerned. Designs that were certified to work in shock environments before, are now non-certified and fail.

Component manufactures have scrambled to offer new parts that are compliant, and obsoleted ones that were not profit generators......which in turn has hurt niche companies that depend on those parts. Part obsolescence alone is estimated to cost the industry TRILLIONS in the next few years.

Let's not forget all the training that has to happen, too. If you ever looked at lead-free solder joints...they look terrible. Every solder operator must go through J-STD-001 training again to get certified.

Finally, yes, it's the paper trail. It's also forced many manufacturers to update their internal systems to comply with the requirements.

I'm not necessary against some of the regulations, but to claim that it's cost is only in paperwork is fallacious at best.

RE: I wish I had thought of it...
By rcc on 7/8/2008 10:47:20 AM , Rating: 2
Not to mention the longevity of the product isn't going to be what it was. The 30 year old radio/tv that still works is a thing of the past. The aging and corrosion properties of the "new and improved" solders put an finite limit on how long electronics can last.

"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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