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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 Believer on 7/8/2008 11:01:22 AM , Rating: 2
That's what I said years ago too... until I got stuck manufacturing some none-RoHS certified cables that we could still sell to you guys in the US.

The fumes from the brominated flame retardants gave me such a nausea I had to call in sick even the next day.

Since then I kinda like RoHS.

RE: I wish I had thought of it...
By masher2 on 7/8/2008 12:02:41 PM , Rating: 2
Why not install a fume hood instead? Flame retardants exist for a reason...ask anyone whose had a family member die in a house fire. And just like the lead-free solders, the RoHS-compliant alternatives are considerably inferior.

RE: I wish I had thought of it...
By Believer on 7/8/2008 6:31:47 PM , Rating: 2
I was more or less speaking to make a metaphoric point, not to propagate for fume hoods.

Maybe pumping out matter that's clearly not healthy to other organic beings in great volumes and with great geographical distribution networks isn't the smartest "if" it should prove unwise in hindsight.

Kinda like it wasn't the smartest move to promote the heavy use of DDT back in the days, or various other pesticides, for examples of foreign substances causing havoc to established ecosystems.

A known fact is that we humans create far more new substances every year then we can reasonably motivate proper life-cycle analyzes and long-term studying of. Making the hindsight the only real way to see if was smart to introduce the substance in the first place or not.

So, instead of stopping the development of technology, I wouldn't mind much if they came to a general consensus to at least test things out more thoroughly before implementation stages.

RE: I wish I had thought of it...
By masher2 on 7/8/2008 7:43:11 PM , Rating: 2
> "I was more or less speaking to make a metaphoric point, not to propagate for fume hoods."

You miss the point. Buying fume hoods for those workers who need them is certainly a far more efficient solution than the vast expense of reworking an entire industry and ultimately producing lower quality products.

> "Kinda like it wasn't the smartest move to promote the heavy use of DDT back in the days"

That was the wrong example to use, as DDT is one of the great embarrassments of the environmental movement. Eliminating it led to a prodigious increase in human deaths from malaria, without any real substantial clearly demonstrated by those nations which never banned DDT and continue to use it to this day.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein
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