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Obsolete and non-functioning consumer waste finds its way to third world countries

The United Nations held a conference this week called the 8th Conference of the Parties where UN members discussed primarily issues affecting the environment. The main topic was what they called "e-waste."

A byproduct of technology that was once cutting edge, e-waste is basically old technology that has become obsolete and consumers no longer want them. Old televisions, computers, phones and other electronics are getting moved overseas, to third world countries and being "dumped" there for people to use. While the concept of recycling is definitely the idea, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, expressed a high degree of concern over e-waste.

During his speech to UN members, Steiner noted "If these were good quality, second hand, pieces of equipment this would perhaps be a positive trade of importance for development." Most people would consider this a fairly positive bit up to this point. Steiner then expressed concerns that most products being shipped over either have malfunctions or are completely non-functioning. "But local experts estimate that between a quarter to 75 per cent of these items including old TVs, CPUs and phones are defunct—in other words E-waste, in other words long distance dumping from developed country consumers and companies to an African rubbish tip or landfill," continued Steiner.

The UN meeting suggests that manufacturers begin looking at ways to truly recycle used and non-functional electronic equipment. Nokia for example, announced recyclable phones earlier this year. The phones would be taken back to a break-down facility where a specific degree of heat would cause the phone to instantly break apart into individual components. Product designs like this easily help manufacturers salvage old products and refurbish them for uses elsewhere. Developing countries where technology is slow moving can benefit from recycling schemes such as Nokia's.

Near the end of his speech, Steiner pointed out that China was a country leading the world in terms of a "circular economy," where nothing was wasted. A circular economy is a concept where one product is a raw material for another product. And a product could be anything from a hand-held instrument to heat for warming homes.

According to UNEP study, "Some progress in the areas of electronics is being made and I congratulate the Basel Secretariat and responsible members of industry for the Mobile Phone Partnership Initiative. There is a lot that can be done like take back schemes, recycling projects and certification of exports showing them as functioning equipment."

Whatever the case may be, e-waste has definitely grown to international proportions and the concern is very real. It's a reality that landfills are piling up with waste and more electronic consumer products are being manufactured in mass quantities daily. At the same time, massive amount of products are being thrown away by consumer -- most of which are still usable.

It appears as though the world has come along way since the introduction of the "three R's" concept.

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By therealnickdanger on 11/30/2006 10:44:29 AM , Rating: 2
Seriously, "e-waste" is the last thing we should be worrying about in Africa. Warbosses, tribal genocide, starvation, AIDS... I think we should focus our energies on those first. The U.N. undoubtedly is focusing on e-waste because they use it to syphon more money from developed nations, like dumping taxes or something. They can't make money off of charity...


RE: Africa
By Hippiekiller on 11/30/06, Rating: 0
RE: Africa
By bigbrent88 on 11/30/2006 7:38:43 PM , Rating: 1
Those require many times more "energies" than what we expend just on attempting to stabilize Iraq, which has its share of "warbosses, genocide". Could you name even basic ideas on fixing these problems?

I know we have a way to reduce our pollution in other countries, its called not dumping our problems on people who cant even eat. Maybe if you didn't buy that xbox360 you could have fed a couple children over there. Its a general statement so dont get all fumed, but we live in economies that are driven not by balanced lifestyles(and government budgets) where people can enjoy what they have in this life.
Look at the national debt, look at the average personal debt, all this leads to people living above their lifestyle hoping for that "better" life and governemnts trying for so much and not even paying attention to the needs of their own citizens.

What I am saying is, let our governments help and protect us without interfering with other countries who need to solve their problems. But at the same time we can't dump our problems for the "convenience" of it. The UN is there to look at the bigger picture for the world, unfortunately like every government it has turned slow and unable to proceed with anything but stupid sanctions that lead to more conflict.
So if anything atleast we still have conversations like this and maybe when people get their beliefs out of the bronze age we can solve true problems and figure out what humanity is really! phew

"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton
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