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  (Source: Natalie Behring/Greenpeace)
The U.S. government aims to stamp out trash exporting, while environmental lobbies put pressure on big business

The “tech trash” subject is a controversial one in the U.S. and abroad.  For the last decade, the U.S. has been shipping growing amounts of electronics trash to foreign countries, particularly third world and developing nations.  China is among the prime targets, and despite laws put in place against the practice, the trash continues to pour in.

The U.S. government, particularly Congress, has grown increasingly upset about the image the U.S. is projecting by shipping its tech trash overseas.  Now they are looking to act with new e-waste legislation on the table.  U.S. Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials, last week introduced legislation which would ban the export of toxic e-waste to developing nations.  Analysts predict the legislation might have enough support to pass by next year.

Part of the reason for the rise in concern, analysts say is the eyesore of a problem is getting harder to ignore.  With Americans owning roughly 3 billion gadgets, including desktops, laptops, cell phones, and PDAs, there is a tremendous amount of tech trash generated each year.  In 1998, 20 million computers were estimated to be disposed of annually.  In 2005, despite increased recycling rates the estimate was up to 37 million.

While the overall waste only accounts for a small percentage of the total trash, it is growing.  And with 2.25 million tons in the last two years and only 18 percent being recycled, the problem is becoming more and more noticeable.

According to advocates, when this waste is shipped overseas and broken down by impoverished locals, mercury, lead, and brominated flame retardants are frequently reduced.  Locals often work with no gloves and face heavy exposure to these chemicals that have been shown to have a wide array of health effects.

Another emerging crisis is the switch to digital TV.  With the signals fully switching in February 2009, it is predicted that 32 million digital televisions will bought, meaning millions of old models will likely be trashed.  These old models will likely cause a massive surge in tech trash for the year.  Older CRT (cathode ray tube) models frequently have as much as four pounds of lead a piece. 

Barbara Kyle, national coordinator for the nonprofit Electronics TakeBack Coalition warns people that "recycling" efforts may not be all they're cracked up to be.  Many recycling initiatives collect massive amounts of tech waste and then ship it overseas and then pocket the small profit.

Ms. Kyle insists that only if companies themselves adopt national take back programs will the practice be suitable for regulation and the misbehavior able to be stopped.  Of all the manufacturers of TVs, until recently, only Sony was progressive enough to adopt such policies, she said.  Sony offers a free take back program at its affiliated retailers.  In a Congressional report Sony stated that it was perhaps the only tech company to ban "the exportation of hazardous waste to developing countries."

Now LG Electronics has decided to side with Sony and is launching its own free recycling initiative.  By September, LG promises to have one recycling center per state.  Some states and government entities such as the surprisingly green state of Texas have recycling programs of their own that are manufacturer neutral.  These programs have been a major factor in upping recycling rates from 15 percent in 1999 to 18 percent in 2005, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

International environmental group Greenpeace, known for some of its more controversial stances, has decided to tackle this slightly less radical issue.  It released a major report on the flow of tech trash to the West African country of Ghana, one of the major destinations after China and India.  The report details the toxic exposure citizens of the country face in their search for aluminum and copper to resell.  It also points out possible environmental damage due to improper disposal.

Greenpeace is trying to convince the world's two largest electronics manufacturers -- Philips and Sharp -- to phase out toxic materials in their electronics and to fully adopt recycling programs.

Still, private and advocate efforts are not enough, according to many members of Congress.  They feel even the EPA, the government agency tasked with dealing with such issues, has disappointed with its inaction.  Rep. Green states, "If the EPA cannot or will not act to halt the toxic e-waste trade to developing nations, then Congress should take action."  



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Digital Cemeteries
By Suza on 8/7/2008 2:38:41 AM , Rating: 2
It's easy to say that people in China profit from e-waste when you don't know the enviromental consequences for the region. It's our responsibility to choose recycling centers that do it properly. Why? Because we can!

If you're not convinced, maybe this trailer will change your mind? Would you trade places with the people living there?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CN9jnzaqqVs

If you can find the whole documentary, it´s worth watching.




RE: Digital Cemeteries
By Eri Hyva on 8/7/2008 12:20:57 PM , Rating: 2
Digital Cemeteries is an excellent documentary! Highly recommended.
http://www.smallplanet.gr/en/hot-docs/digital-ceme...
http://www.smallplanet.gr/el/digital-cemeteries-pr...
(It was aired on TV here in Finland)

Can't you handle anything there anymore according to your own laws and standards: you export people to Guantanamo Bay, and hazardous waste to China, India, Africa.
Maybe you don't need any landfills on your soil anymore, import all your sh*t to poorer countries, there will always be greedy people out there. Obviously you are so poor that you can't afford to take care of your own sh*t.

It is illegal to import e-waste into China, but bribe dollars are always welcomed to some people.

Check more info about Guiyu
http://www.china-pix.com/multimedia/guiyu/
plenty of more stuff of Guiyu with google


RE: Digital Cemeteries
By Jim28 on 8/7/2008 1:39:35 PM , Rating: 3
I am guessing Europe is immune from this Eri?

I don't thinks so. Get over hating America as most of America's problems are the same as Europe's in areas regarding waste, power, energy, and oil.

Pointing the Finger at just America shows how stupid and ignorant you are. (Yes the stupid and ingorant have different meanings.)


RE: Digital Cemeteries
By Eri Hyva on 8/8/2008 10:41:07 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I am guessing Europe is immune from this Eri?


Well, last time I checked EU didn't have a Guantanamo lying somewhere, or di**heads saying, that we should import our e-waste to 10-years-olds to burn on open fires to get rid of the plastic and to get access copper and lead.

You used to do things similarly there than here, now you are getting closer to Mexican and Nicaraguan standards.


RE: Digital Cemeteries
By rcc on 8/7/2008 2:33:17 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Would you trade places with the people living there?


This is the classic false dilemna. Better to ask the question would they rather be doing whatever they would have been doing had the waste not been there. If you think the answer is yes, you need to figure out why they aren't.

The US can't be the worlds conscience, it makes them pissy.

Try comparing these people with working conditions in the US 100 years ago. Sure, we know more now, but if we had to rebuild our technology/industrial base today we'd have some of the same problems. Granted, we hope that we would use our knowledge to do it more safely, but sometimes you just can't afford to.


RE: Digital Cemeteries
By Suza on 8/8/2008 10:50:19 AM , Rating: 2
I don't feel it's about being anyone else's conscience, it's more about damage control.

Just making sure that our e-waste doesn't harm the environment (anywhere) more than necessary is a good thing in my opinion.


"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone














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