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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 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 : ).


"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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