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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 number999 on 11/30/2006 3:48:34 PM , Rating: 4
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.
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
War, Murder, Rape... All for Your Cell Phone
Study: E-waste dumping victimizes developing nations

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 -
the insanity of the liberal ellite
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?

...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.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov
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