Making e-waste tangible! … Sort of

By Ray

Like most people when I think of e-waste my mind jumps to the over abundance of hyper messaging across the Internet and the sickening vast waste (time, effort, money,… pixels?) land that is the mass media. More often than not we probably experience almost 50 ads alone just by using the web to check our email accounts and local news for 15 minutes. All we need to do however is turn off the display and walk away and all that e-waste disappears, right? Its not like it physically stacks up somewhere and is waiting to come bursting through your front door. That’s why they call it E-waste and not just waste! Right?

Living in New York you would probably be right in thinking that. Living in a third world country that the good ol’ US of A exports all of its old electronic devices such as televisions, cell phones, monitors, laptops, and other computer components you might think of e-waste a little differently. In 2008 the GAO began investigating the recycling process for these items. The recycling process is a rather expensive one so to no surprise its minimally done here. We ship most of it off to third world countries where they will be stripped down and other people can deal with those so called dangerous metals like lead, mercury, and cadmium. As for that potential issue of radioactive residue well its not a concern here! Minimal EPA regulations on the issue (at least as of 2008) have made this tidy solution possible.

That might be a bit sarcastic sounding on my part but its definitely a huge issue (one which has yet to really be resolved) but definitely helps put into perspective the notion of waste (be it e-waste or traditionally tangible waste) that our waste is discarded by us and soon forgotten. We experience e-anything through devices which are designed to have short life spans and be periodically deemed as potentially dangerous producers of radiation (I have heard some European countries are looking to pass a law which would make ear phones mandatory for cellphone calls). Having these containers of health risk exported and given to people who will strip them apart in hopes of selling the scraps to provide for themselves and their families is something I find nightmarish.

Here is the article that started this rant:

http://ecoscraps.com/2008/09/17/gao-epa-fails-to-control-export-of-hazardous-e-waste-to-third-world/

Here is a link to the GAO website on the issue of e-waste:

http://www.gao.gov/search/?&q=%22E-waste%22

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1 Comment»

  jennykane324 wrote @

Yes, it is nightmarish!
You have to hope more states will take responsibility and ban electronic sales to developing countries because the EPA seems unable to do it. And of course, the manufacturers should be held accountable and make products with fewer toxic elements, that last longer and are returnable or safely recycled by the company. Jennifer Gabrys writes that when ( and hopefully they will do so) countries stop accepting our waste, “we can imagine barges of dead electronics trolling the oceans, unable to land to unload their toxic shipments, caught in a peripheral and restless space of remainder.”
But we as consumers have to take the extra step to make sure an item is properly recycled ( or, how about just not buying it???) and to keep pressuring our representatives on environmental issues.
Here’s a company that recycles properly: http://www.gesrecycles.com/electronics-recycling


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