Think that recycling those electronics means they just “go away” and no one has to deal with them anymore? Think again, unfortunately. From the toxic mess that they can leave in far away lands to the sensitive data that is found on the millions of computers thrown away each year, our e-waste is leaving a trail of destruction around the world. The Federal Government alone gets rid of over 10,000 computers per week, and most all of our waste ends up on shipping containers on their way to countries without strict laws and rules on how to deal with the toxic chemicals that come along with them. It’s not as clear-cut as taking your cellphone to a recycling facility and thinking that it will be properly disposed of and no one has to deal with it anymore. From Truthdig:
“We may think we are doing the right thing by giving our old electronics to a recycler or a free collection event,” says Sarah Westerville, BAN’s e-Stewardship program director. “But many of those businesses calling themselves recyclers are little more than international waste distributors. They take your electronic items for free, or pocket your recycling fee, and then simply load them onto a sea-going container, and ship them to China, India or Nigeria.” The Basel Action Network investigated Nigeria’s e-waste situation and detailed its findings in a shocking report. “We saw people using e-waste to fill in swamps. Whenever the piles got too high, they would torch them. Residents complained about breathing the fumes. We saw kids roaming barefoot over this material, not to mention chicken and goats, which wind up in the local diet.”
According to the report, materials at the dump are a dangerous mix of toxic ash, broken CRT glass, dead animals, medical wastes, used chemical containers and food scraps, which creates conditions for contamination and infection.
I highly recommend you read the entire article I linked to above, as really opens one’s eyes to where our e-waste goes and who it affects after we drop it in the blue bins. The United Nations has called on Western countries to stop using Africa as a landfill for our useless electronics, and I could not agree more. If we are going to continue consuming unabated, we need to start figuring out a way to deal with the consequences in a responsible manner instead of just shipping it off for someone else to deal with.
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