Dumping e-Waste into Africa Now an International Concern
November 30, 2006 10:35 AM
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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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11/30/2006 9:19:39 PM
The issue here is very simple. Western corporations, under the guise of charity, are moving large quantities of non-functional electronics to third world countries which are ill prepared to deal with recycling high tech devices. Payment to Africa isn't happening - the entire point of the scheme is that the corporations dodge the expensive recycling charges while at the same time receiving tax breaks for charitable donations.
This isn't beggars being choosers. This is the first world dumping it's problems on the third world because it's cheaper, and they're doing it under the guise of charity. Those making those 'donations' know full well they're 'donating' non-functional equipment that isn't going to do anyone receiving it any good, and in fact the only one likely to benefit from this 'charity' is they themselves, via dodged recycling costs and tax breaks.
It's the moral equivalent of donating 'food' to third world countries, sending them your sewage and telling them to eat up.
RE: Missed point?
12/1/2006 9:26:17 AM
What charitable deduction? Sorry but you stepped into a false argument here.
If a company sends a depreciated computer to Africa it gets ZERO for a deduction. If a leasing company takes a depreciated product and sells it to a company in Africa it has GAIN, specifically, depreciation recapture (ordinary income) to the extent of the sale price, less added costs of selling it.
Perhaps companies are MAKING MONEY donations to nonprofits who send the stuff to Africa (and can do so feasibly due to the donations), but it is the non-profit( who can still authorize relatively large director's salaries and I thereby call them disguised non profits) who is doing this. Nonprofits are some of the most economically profitable entities in Cleveland (are economy has lagged for 20+ years now)if you consider how many people they employ. I expect this trend to continue as the rest of America gets more in line with other countries, in terms of economic climate. Nonprofits are big business indeed.
However, there still has to be money in the chain to accomplish this. Certainly big companies give away used computers, and even better, a lot of leasing companies take them at the end of the lease back for free.
This issue started out with thre presumption that these computers do not have a benefit? How exactly are they being used? How are they being marketed? Are we sure that there is no benefit to Africa for this? It seems like most of the above posts are relying on emotion and the general blurb, not facts, to support conclusions in this article.
"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins
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