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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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Looks Like
By creathir on 11/30/2006 10:54:07 AM , Rating: 3
So I guess beggers CAN be choosers...

I would think that any respectible recycling company which would actually PAY to ship all of this stuff over there... would first check to see if it works or not. I'm sure there is a small number of things that are actually broke, but they are prob. being sent for part value.

I cannot believe the insanity of the liberal ellite. This guy DEMANDS we help the needy (and encourages governments to FORCE this) but when private enterprise is helping bring those into the modern era, (well before OLPC, XO, or whatever they are calling it this week) its a bad thing.

*Sigh*

It is impossible to get ahead with these people.

- Creathir




RE: Looks Like
By AxemanFU on 11/30/2006 12:21:35 PM , Rating: 5
Why would the UN need to be involved? Shouldn't the local governments be regulating this if they want to? It is their nations, and their choices, ultimately. It seems like a possibly benenficial economic relationship in the long run. I do think there will be dumping issues probably, and I'm sure with the extreme degree of corruption in African governments for the most part, that many Africans will have no say in the matter, which are both unfavorable, but those are larger issues that have widespread effects beyond E-waste.

The driver for the desire to send these materials abroad is generally the desire for first world governments to avoid the costs of complying with their own environmental regulations in house. It is easier to export the problem. I think, however, that much of this ewaste could be re-used to recycled, and it could be an economic boon for Africa IF the corruption could be reigned in and if governments that better represented the people could be empowered to do that.

Africa is a political and ecnomic mess on the whole, and anything that gives their economies a boost without causing a noticable degree of harm can't be a bad thing.

I always feel terrible for Africa. The problems there are actally much worse than in the middle east in vast regions, but noone really wants to deal with it, because it is probably even tougher to resolve. It's definitely not all bad there, but it surely could be much much better.


RE: Looks Like
By AxemanFU on 11/30/2006 12:24:07 PM , Rating: 1
Creathir, looks like the political correctness censor Nazi's have rated you down again. It's a shame their actions don't follow their words on the subject of free speech.


RE: Looks Like
By wien on 11/30/2006 12:34:10 PM , Rating: 3
Nobody is denying Creathir his right to express himself. People just don't like what he's saying. There is a difference. And quite a big one.


RE: Looks Like
By AxemanFU on 11/30/2006 1:36:43 PM , Rating: 5
Yes, but we ALL know that rating him down hides his post, making it less easy to view his opinion. Real free speech doesn't involve hiding or obfuscating opposing viewpoints...it involved debating them or refuting them. People should have the stones to counter his arguments or debate them, not just anonymously (and cowardly) rate him down to hide what he has to say.


RE: Looks Like
By AxemanFU on 11/30/2006 1:40:25 PM , Rating: 3
In my view, rating should be to hide libelous, slanderos, or obscene posts, or posts completely off topic..not valid, though unpopular, viewpoints.


RE: Looks Like
By wien on 11/30/2006 4:05:22 PM , Rating: 2
Free speech is about being able to voice your beliefs without fear of being prosecuted for said belief. It is not about having everyone accepting your viewpoint as a valid argument and discussing it with you. If you're talking out of your ass, you will (and should) get told. Free speech doesn't enter into it.


RE: Looks Like
By AxemanFU on 12/1/2006 10:58:18 AM , Rating: 2
But..WHO decides who is and who isn't "talking out their ass" and therefore deserves apparently to have their views repressed or obfuscated? Do you want someone to decide you shouldn't be allowed to express your view if it happens to be unpopular in a certain arena? It sounds like you are advocating that free speech and expression is fine, as long as they agree with you, or the majority..which is EXACTLY what opression of the minority is.

I'm not saying that unpopular viewpoints should not be subject to criticism..they clearly should be. What I am saying is that they deserve equal access to the public forum to be heard and then criticized, not hidden, obstructed, or silenced. If you think someone is an idiot, the best argument against them is most often to let them speak loud and clear, and remove all doubt. To suppress them is cowardice..you have to have conviction that your own viewpoints will prevail despite what others say, and let them say what they will. Otherwise, you might have to face the fact that they are right, and perhaps you are wrong.


RE: Looks Like
By creathir on 11/30/2006 1:49:14 PM , Rating: 3
Thanks for coming to my defense... but I am used to it.
I have a conservative viewpoint, which, on this site, is not the majority. (This makes no sense to me as I would think logic minded people would be more conservative than liberal)

I do make what some would call "outrageous statements" but that is just from their perspective. In the circles I travel in, my thoughts and beliefs are right in line with everyone I know... with the majority of the country.

But DT or AT is not the majority of the country. They are people that have an interest in all things technology related.

But thanks for pointing out the whole free speech argument... it is funny how people on the left claim to be for it, but then try to silence anyone with an opposing viewpoint. I guess what they mean by free speech, is freedom to say what you want, but our freedom to suppress it.

- Creathir


RE: Looks Like
By goz314 on 11/30/2006 3:00:49 PM , Rating: 2
This post is certainly off topic, but I'm glad you hold yourself in such high regard. BTW, what country do you live in?


RE: Looks Like
By wien on 11/30/2006 3:46:08 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
(This makes no sense to me as I would think logic minded people would be more conservative than liberal)
Interesting. How so? The image I'm left with when I hear the word "conservative" is someone who holds religion, traditions and "moral" over scientific progress and freedom of the individual. (I know I'm taking it to the absolute extreme here.) This is the exact opposite of what I imagine most higher educated people to be. (Disclaimer: I'm European, and would probably be considered extremely liberal by American standards. You are American right?)
quote:
I do make what some would call "outrageous statements" but that is just from their perspective. In the circles I travel in, my thoughts and beliefs are right in line with everyone I know... with the majority of the country.
Well sure. Most people end up sharing the beliefs of the people they interact with. Consciously or not, that's usually how it works. Most of the people I interact with share my beliefs on most issues too.. Funny how that works out.

But, precisely because of this fact I find it kind of dangerous to proclaim that because most people you interact with agree with you, "the majority" of the country does. How would you know? Unless you've done some extensive polls across the entire country, covering all social layers, you're basing that statement on a very limited and biased selection. I'm not saying you're necessarily wrong, but how do you know "the majority" agree with you?
quote:
But thanks for pointing out the whole free speech argument... it is funny how people on the left claim to be for it, but then try to silence anyone with an opposing viewpoint. I guess what they mean by free speech, is freedom to say what you want, but our freedom to suppress it.
Well, using the rating system on Dailytech as an example of "the left" censoring people with differing opinions is kind of stupid though. It's the internet. It's filled to the brim with idiots. Both the left and the right kind. If you say something someone doesn't like, you will be modded down. That's just how it is. It's anarchy in practice.

Furthermore, rating is not censorship. Your post is this still there for those who want to see it. Censorship would be if Dailytech removed you post entirely. (Which they're fully entitled to do by the way, since this is a private forum and they may do with it as they please. Free speech doesn't apply like it does in the real world.)


RE: Looks Like
By Tyler 86 on 11/30/2006 4:38:34 PM , Rating: 3
I guess that makes me a conservative anarchist... yikes.

> (This makes no sense to me as I would think logic minded people would be more conservative than liberal)

While logic restrains one from indulging in actions deemed unethical, logic also argues "why not?" - but it's the genius with no common sense that opens pandora's box.

> Unless you've done some extensive polls across the entire country, covering all social layers, you're basing that statement on a very limited and biased selection. I'm not saying you're necessarily wrong, but how do you know "the majority" agree with you?

We, as Americans, have liberal and conservative polls on the hour and every half hour. It's disorienting. They're worthless.

I've learned by expirience that "the majority" is a very frayed card to play, and is claimed/used when one feels confident AND rejected... It only offends anyone who isn't "the majority", or anyone who disagrees with you, who is also a membef of "the majority".
Claim no political followship, lead no political flock, simply be politicly concerned - basicly, stop 'playing' politics.

I'm opposed to "protected free speech", but opposed more to punishment of political bias - it has educational value.
I propose "unprotected free speech", which is pretty much what the US has now...
Expressing bias can get a judge thrown off a case, associating hate crimes with context sensitive wording, sexual harassment lawsuits standing on a hair trigger, counter intelligence 'programs and applications', intelligence gathering 'hardware', etc, etc...

First it was just landfills, then came toxic waste, and now e-waste? It's getting way too crowded way too fast.
I think that's why shit's rolling down hill. I'm partial to finding a way to survive off this rock, so I can get off this rock without jonesing for air ("pollution problem"), air conditioning ("global warming"), or waste disposal (frickin' "e-waste"), but most of all, so I don't have to listen to people complain about that crap.

Oh, and yeah, 'most europeans' are liberal by American standards, but so are American 'moderates' (laugh out loud), but 'most europeans' have a way to go before you touch American ultra-liberal standards...
I mean, hell, you guys went to war with us, pretty much, just because we went to war. I mean sure, you guys provided some "intelligence", faulty or not, but you didn't have to go...
Now, I don't have the whole story on that, and I don't really care about it, but my opinion on what I gather, I don't particularly know if that's liberal, or conservative, but it's definantly not ultra-liberal (filibustering to slow us down) or ultra-conservative (beating us to the punch)...

I haven't heard any 'decent' politics since I was 13, and the then most "liberal democrats" could pass for today's "conservative majority"... Maybe it was just my youthful perspective... but it's all so damn dirty now.

Anyway, times change, things get thrown away, here's some of them. Enjoy, Africa. I mean, what the fuck... we're not going to use them... If they don't work, feel free to chuck them at the tourists.


RE: Looks Like
By MrDiSante on 11/30/2006 5:42:56 PM , Rating: 2
There are two types of conservatives in this day and age: the religious conservative who typically bases his beliefs and views on religion, tradition etc and then there's the typically atheist conservative who makes his judgements based on what he believes to be the just way, if perhaps seemingly outrageous from a liberal perspective. E.g. economics dictates that you shouldn't use rent ceilings so as to ensure that you have an adequate supply and quality of housing. While this is sound in practice and in theory, there are those who deem it immoral (liberals) because it discriminates against those who are unable to find employment (which in my experience is complete bunk: in North America if you seek employment, you'll get it. In the EU it's a completely different situation but we can debate the reasons for that later). At any rate, there are the "business" "atheist" conservatives who are in favour of conservative ideas because they make logical sense and are in their best interests (or in the interests of their family, city, state/province, country etc) and there are those who are because religious and traditional beliefs. Two completely different groups.


RE: Looks Like
By rcc on 11/30/2006 6:32:29 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Interesting. How so? The image I'm left with when I hear the word "conservative" is someone who holds religion, traditions and "moral" over scientific progress and freedom of the individual.


One of the problems with labels is that they are interpreted differently by different people.

I consider my self to be largely conservative. However, I have no religion, but I'll fight for your right to have yours. I love traditions, unless they get in the way of progress. Freedom of the individual? I'm in favor, but as the saying goes, your right to swing your fist ends before it gets close to my chin.

As far as scientific progress goes, I hope you are joking. but.... I'm a techie, I love science, progress, etc. However, I do thing that we should make sure that a breakthrough really is a breakthrough before we distribute it to the masses. DDT anyone? History is full of scientific and societal "advances" that never should have seen the light of day, at least outside a research facility.

Where do you draw the line, where do you hang the label? A cure for cancer would be great! But if it causes brain damage in 50% of users after 3 years, was it worth it?

::shrugs::

You cite religion, tradition, morals, science and freedoms as if it was a list you have to prioritize or balance. I see each of those as separate entities. I don't have to give up freedoms to respect traditions. But if you consider slavery to be a tradition, I'm certainly willing to overthrow it in favor of personal freedoms. Or, how is having morals a hinderance to scientific advance?

: )

More grist for the mill, chew away.



RE: Looks Like
By wien on 11/30/2006 7:51:24 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
You cite religion, tradition, morals, science and freedoms as if it was a list you have to prioritize or balance. I see each of those as separate entities. I don't have to give up freedoms to respect traditions.
No, exactly. And that was really my point. The image I have of conservatives (This image may very well be a wrong one, I'm not denying that.) is that many of them seem to put for instance their religious beliefs, or what they themselves find "morally right" (what does that even mean?) over other people's freedom to live their life the way they want and find right and just.

What I'm thinking of here is for instance the controversies around abortion, stem cell research, and Janet Jackson's nipple. (All of which seem a bit silly to many people where I'm from.) It seems like it's a matter of "I don't like it/my religion doesn't allow it, therefore it should be prohibited for everyone." It's a matter of trying to prevent anyone with opposing views from exercising their rights, which is, amusingly, the exact thing many self proclaimed conservatives in here seem to want to pin on liberals. :) This is also the same kind of rhetoric you find among many deeply religious muslims (Remember the Muhammad cartoons?), and it leads to absolutely no good. As you say, your rights to swing your arms, stop at my face, but I shouldn't have to run around ducking because you want to swing your arms where my face happens to be either.

And no, having morals is not a hindrance to scientific advance. :) Morals is entirely a good thing. The problem starts when people try to impose their morals on others, thereby limiting other people's opportunity to advance. This I feel is somewhat of a conservative trait.

Maybe liberals are just as guilty of this. Damned if I know... It seems all sides are sitting in their fortresses, fingers in ears, going "la-la-la-la" these days. Discussion and understanding of each others differences doesn't seem to exist anymore.

How we as a race have managed to get to this point with all these anal idiots running around is beyond me. ;)


RE: Looks Like
By rcc on 12/1/2006 12:58:46 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
No, exactly. And that was really my point. The image I have of conservatives (This image may very well be a wrong one, I'm not denying that.) is that many of them seem to put for instance their religious beliefs, or what they themselves find "morally right" (what does that even mean?) over other people's freedom to live their life the way they want and find right and just.


You are describing a religious extremist, not a conservative. Granted there appear to be many that are, or claim to be conservatives, and are; but there are also those that are quite liberal as well. But again, this is linking religious beliefs, political beliefs, etc. under one label. T'aint so.

quote:
"I don't like it/my religion doesn't allow it, therefore it should be prohibited for everyone." It's a matter of trying to prevent anyone with opposing views from exercising their rights, which is, amusingly, the exact thing many self proclaimed conservatives in here seem to want to pin on liberals. :)


I'd have to agree with your "self proclaimed conservations". Most of the conservatives I am around may tell you don't mess with my beliefs or try to impose your views on me. Whereas the liberals I run into are likely to insist that you adopt the latest xyz, or you are a slow miserable conservative dog. Go figure, it's all perspective. Part of what you are describing is also the infamous "moral majority", which again is another label separate from, but linked to conservatives.

quote:
And no, having morals is not a hindrance to scientific advance. :) Morals is entirely a good thing. The problem starts when people try to impose their morals on others, thereby limiting other people's opportunity to advance. This I feel is somewhat of a conservative trait.


Ok, I'll freely buy into this one. It is pretty much what government tends to be about, at a root level. But you have to be careful what you define as morals. If I catch someone killing or stealing, I'm going to try to impose my moral beliefs on them. If they are lusting after their neighbors wife, that's between them and not my problem. Again, if I don't think that balls should be bounced on Tuesday afternoon and want to impose that on the neighbors, that doesn't make me conservative, it makes me a religous fanatic (or some type).

So!!!!! How about this dumping problem in Africa? What say we give them a good price on the plans for a factory, and a few consultants, and they can produce their own. Not that I wish to minimize the problem, but no one on the shipping end is going to want to spend additional time and money testing used products, and the folks at the receiving end generally don't have the expertise. Sounds like a capatalist's dream, set up a repair shop. They could also send it back : ).


RE: Looks Like
By Dfere on 11/30/2006 4:12:39 PM , Rating: 2
Ditto: There is a lot of conservative bashing on this site, which is okay, if the people doing the bashing stood fast to a single set of beliefs.

I have one dissenting point though: These economic forces people are posting about are not about governments (except perhaps for China and N Korea who have state run economies which distort typical market forces).

This is about profit for someone to earn a living to resell this stuff in Africa. Instead of trying to pass a commerce law which the UN does not have the right or power to regulate, how about they offer incentives for businesses that only export working goods?

You'd be surprised how fast businesses can adapt to freebies. Then go figure out who is going to pay for it. How about we start with anyone who rated Creathir down in the first place? Any takers?

And Creathir, if you are going to stand strong, you'd better get used to it. Here and everywhere........


RE: Looks Like
By number999 on 11/30/2006 3:48:34 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
respectible recycling company which would actually PAY to ship all of this stuff over there... would first check to see if it works or not
There are a couple of points against this and they are pretty self evident. You basically have to pay for someone to look at the electronics. This is expensive in itself and only makes sense for latest models where obsolesence is the least. These get donated for use by charity or resold. The article doesn't even say that the companies spend money to get the stuff over there. Lastly, the expense of having to look after and dispose of the hazardous material in the e-waste may make it cheaper to ship it out than dispose of it locally. Shipping it out also allows it to be recycled because of the cheaper labor but at an environmental cost in these poor countries. Let's call it what it is and not charity by any amount.

It's also fairly obvious you didn't even look at the article. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme made the speech at the opening of the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention, which is specifically targeted at the exportation of e-waste from 1st world countries to poorer countries. Where did it say he demands charity for the needy? His complaint is that 75-80% of this charity is nothing but garbage and totally unusable.
quote:
private enterprise is helping bring those into the modern era
Achim Steiner said if the material was usable but like the article says it's 75-80% junk. It's a UN problem because it is an international problem with huge amounts of money involved and yes, corruption and pure exploitation. 1st world gov'ts don't have a lot do with it but companies operating in them do. Recycling isn't done with any environmental standards but done at the lowest cost with harm to the local environemnt and people.


Some background to the problem of exportation of waste.
The high tech trashing of Asia
http://www.crra.com/ewaste/ttrash2/ttrash2/
War, Murder, Rape... All for Your Cell Phone
http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/congo/...
Study: E-waste dumping victimizes developing nations
http://www.infoworld.com/article/05/10/28/HNe-wast...


As for this rating up and down business part of the problem is the self rightous attitude in his own beliefs and the truth he puts in them. Give me a break -
quote:
the insanity of the liberal ellite
quote:
my thoughts and beliefs are right in line with everyone I know... with the majority of the country
How parochial. Not only that, as if even if he represented the majority, the majority is always right? Talk about tyranny of the majority. How about the world?

quote:
...conservative viewpoint, which, on this site, is not the majority. (This makes no sense to me as I would think logic minded people would be more conservative than liberal)
This made me laugh. He thinks his own position is already so logical that his viewpoint is right, based on his own readings. This labelling is nonsense. I suggest looking up the origin of the term liberal and liberalism and it's pitfalls. Classical liberalism makes most modern conservative ideas look like pablum. As for expressed opinions, there are more than a few conservative views out there, from what i've seen on other postings and the ratings given out.

He already has a preconceived notion in his head about the way things are. Everything else is liberal wrongness when in actuality something this complicated contains a lot of grey. Are there advantages? Of course but not to even acknowledge the existence of negative effects is blind and labelling objections and objectors even worse.

Oh ya, voting down is the easiest way to get rid of the most offensive posts. It takes time to write something and time shouldn't be wasted.


RE: Looks Like
By AxemanFU on 11/30/2006 4:03:46 PM , Rating: 2
I myself AM a classical liberal..a Libertarian, more or less, though with some conservative leanings in my personal life. I know what you are getting at, but globally, the group think approach from the left of center or socialisy humanist conglomeration of political interests has taken a dominant position in the West, and political group think (left or right) and socialism/collectivism that deny individualism are very antithetical to classical liberalism.

Thomas Paine, Adam Smith, John Madison, and Ben Franklin to me are some of the essence of classical liberalism, and something to aspire to. We can all have common interests, for example to reduce the E-waste sent to the third world, but we don't necessarily need an authoritarian power to dictate when and how it is done, and who will bear the burden for doing it. If it needs to be done, eventually someone will do it either charitably, or find a way to handle it profitably and ethically. It's a shame we are so short of individual ethics in this world today, because an ethical solution sadly will happen later rather than sooner.


RE: Looks Like
By number999 on 11/30/2006 7:09:35 PM , Rating: 2
Actually I was thinking more along the lines of Adam Smith's Wealth of nations or Malthus' studies of population to be more right than right but Libertarianism is an idea developed from early liberal thought as can be seen in the ideas of John Stuart Mill. I tend somewhat myself towards it myself but find some concepts to be somewhat outdated and for want of a better word limited.

I'm not too sure how these thinkers would've thought of today's gov'ts., the military/industrial complex and some of today's companies having greater earnings than the majority of countries. For smaller scale impacts Libertarianism if fine but I think that sometimes intervention maybe necessary for these really large scale things which the general populace are not aware of or have the ability to make decisions of. Milton Friedman said that companies have no ethical bias. They just do what is legal(mostly ;) ). So it is up to us, the people, to put some ethical basis to the laws that they operate under.


RE: Looks Like
By AxemanFU on 12/1/2006 11:06:16 AM , Rating: 2
Yep, sadly, you cannot trust a company to do the ethical thing, only to comply with legal standards when they suspect that the cost to comply is less than the cost to violate and get caught. Ethics, though, do have their own role in business. Without ethics, you cannot have trust, and without trust, you cannot make deals and do business. In the end, those without ethics will reveal themselves, and have a hard time competing with those that do as they are shut out of business. In the end, it pays to be ethical over all, though certainly a few that aren't get by also.


"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?... So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" -- Steve Jobs

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