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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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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 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 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.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke
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