South Africa, Oregon Look to Recycling, Reuse to Deal With Tech Trash
July 23, 2012 10:00 AM
comment(s) - last by
Simply junking electronics is not only wasteful, it can seep toxins into the water supply.
According to the
U.S. Environment Protection Agency
, in 2005 the U.S. generated 2.6 million tons of e-waste [
] -- of which only 12.6 percent was recycled. That amounts to 14.6 pounds of unrecycled e-waste per American on average.
I. The Race to Recycle
But the U.S. doesn't live with this
inordinate amount of high-tech refuse
. Instead it ships 90 percent of it to Nigeria and China,
. The e-waste trade creates some troubling social dilemmas -- for example it brings much needed money to impoverished regions in China and Africa, but at the same time many of the workers l
ack the tools and safety equipment to safely recycle
the materials, or the knowledge to understand the health hazards of smelting used electronics.
Many workers develop respiratory issues and other health problems. Worse still, local water supplies have become contaminated with lead, leading to mental retardation and infertility among local children.
The U.S.'s habit of shipping tech trash overseas brings money to impoverished region, but often the cost in human health outweighs the gains. [Image Source: Jack Dempsey/AP]
The only "real" solution is to step up reuse and
local recycling efforts
One region that's rising to the occasion is the state of Oregon. Oregonians
26 million pounds of e-waste (13 thousand metric tons) under the state-wide "
Oregon E-Cycles Program
" in 2011. This year the program is aiming for 27 million pounds -- 7 pounds per person.
The program is funded an zero-expense to the taxpayer by assessing device manufacturers with small fees, which are used to recycle the returned electronics in a responsible fashion. Three device manufacturers participate as contract recyclers and another state contractor is also involved. The program is managed by the The
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
and has been a resounding success, posting several years of successive growth in collections.
Oregon is recycling nearly half its citizens e-waste. [Image Source: City of Portland]
Meanwhile, far across the globe in South Africa's largest city, Johannesberg, a top trash collector, Pikitup, is
working to step up
in-house recycling. South Africa collects 1.4 million tons of trash annually -- 2.8 billion pounds of trash. Of this massive haul, approximately 10 percent is junk electronics.
Pikitup communications manager Pansy Oyedele says that her company was throwing away a treasure trove before it started recycling. She comments, "People generally don't know that much of this e-waste can be recycled. A perfect example is the steel, aluminium and copper, which can be stripped away from old computers, and then reused in newer models."
Recycling a ton of high grade electronics can cut 4 tons of carbon emissions and can yield between 100 g and 10 kg of gold. A kg of gold is worth $50,000+ USD on today's market so that means recyclers can make millions in gold alone from e-waste recycling.
II. Reuse Also Critical, Has Potential for Quicker Break-Even
But recycling efforts aren't always the best fit. Reuse has also taken center stage as society tries to cut e-waste. Many consumers abandon working devices that other consumers would happily purchase. Recycling is profitable, but has significant overhead. Reuse, by contrast has virtually no overhead, other than inventory and sales costs.
Grocery totes aren't the only reusable items -- electronics can easily be reused in most cases.
[Image Source: Smallfire]
Both strategies spare local people in impoverished regions from the health hazards of unsafe disposal. And both cut down on the release of halogen fire retardants and lead from local landfills into the water supply.
E-Waste is a global problem, both from a production and a processing perspective. Even in relatively "green" state like Oregon, nearly half of people's electronics waste still goes unrecycled.
But industry sponsored programs, along with private-public partnerships between industry, local government, and consumers are slowly reshaping the way the U.S. and its foreign peers deal with their aged electronics. As these efforts consider to expand the U.S. may eventually get to the point where it no longer has to smuggle it's tech trash overseas. And in the process it will likely generate a number of high tech and skilled trade jobs.
State of Oregon
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
RE: Silly article
7/31/2012 8:15:18 PM
I believe that they meant not taxing the state, the taxpayer. Rather a manufacturing fee means that the tax is passed to the consumer.
Yes it is a small difference, but means those 'creating' the waste pay for it rather than everyone.
But yes very sceptical at the 'Zero-Expense'.
"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner
UN Urges U.S. and Others to Stop Exploiting China, India With E-Waste
February 23, 2010, 9:01 AM
Waste Management Vows to Nearly Triple E-Waste Recycling, Partners With iGo
July 27, 2009, 7:32 PM
"60 Minutes" Catches American Tech Trash Firm Red-Handed
November 10, 2008, 11:23 AM
Report: America Shipping Its Tech Trash Overseas
November 21, 2007, 9:54 AM
Latest By Jason Mick
Retiree Sues Apple For $7,500 for Wiping Honeymoon Photos From His iPhone
November 30, 2015, 10:23 AM
Creationists are Mad About Google Doodle Depicting Evolution
November 24, 2015, 8:48 PM
iPhone 7 May Pack 3-4 GB Memory, More Storage; 4-Inch Comeback is Rumored
November 20, 2015, 10:12 PM
DHS and TSA: Whoops, We Missed That 73 Airport Employees May be Terrorists
November 19, 2015, 2:16 PM
OnePlus One, OnePlus 2 Will Receive Android Marshmallow in Q1 2016
November 16, 2015, 9:58 AM
Twitter Senior VP: "Diversity is Important, But We Can’t Lower the Bar"
November 9, 2015, 9:59 AM
"Prepare to be Punished": Microsoft is Killing OneDrive With Cuts, Blames Users
November 3, 2015, 8:23 PM
True Beef or Sloppy Sausage? Digging Into the Red Meat + Cancer Correlation
October 27, 2015, 3:05 AM
Lenovo Whoa: Motorola Droid MAXX 2 and Turbo 2 Break Cover in Leaks
October 26, 2015, 3:12 PM
Leak: Apple Preps for First Real Android App Foray With New Apple Music App
October 24, 2015, 1:59 PM
Inspiron Laptops & 2-in-1 PCs
September 25, 2016, 9:00 AM
The Samsung Galaxy S7
September 14, 2016, 6:00 AM
Apple Watch 2 – Coming September 7th
September 3, 2016, 6:30 AM
Apple says “See you on the 7th.”
September 1, 2016, 6:30 AM
Apple sued because of iPhone 6 Touch Disease
August 31, 2016, 7:00 AM
Get Ready to wait in line – iPhone 7 due September.
August 18, 2016, 7:15 AM
Most Popular Articles
Are you ready for this ? HyperDrive Aircraft
September 24, 2016, 9:29 AM
Leaked – Samsung S8 is a Dream and a Dream 2
September 25, 2016, 8:00 AM
Yahoo Hacked - Change Your Passwords and Security Info ASAP!
September 23, 2016, 5:45 AM
A is for Apples
September 23, 2016, 5:32 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM
Latest Blog Posts
Burlington Gun Attack
Sep 27, 2016, 5:00 AM
Who is in Risk of Getting Oral Cancer?
Sep 23, 2016, 6:02 AM
France Bans Plastic Eating Utensils in Restaurants
Sep 18, 2016, 10:49 AM
Progress Against Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Sep 17, 2016, 5:30 AM
Apple Watch Series 2 - Number 1 in the Customer Satisfaction.
Sep 7, 2016, 6:19 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information