I saw a particularly disturbing documentary on TV, it was on the ‘recycling’ of PCs and other technological products in poverty regions around the world. On $1 – 2 a day most of these workers could never afford to own the technology that they spend their working life pulling apart, but they can afford to spend their lives inhaling noxious fumes from the waste fires, and handing toxic materials such as Lead, Mercury and Cadmium.
BBC Disposable Planet report
The life of these computers probably started as pieces manufactured in one location, assembled in another, bought and utilised in another more affluent country and then shipped to another to be scrapped. Electronic waste – or e-waste – is a massive global problem Thirty million computers are thrown out every year in the US alone, and many are dumped in India and China.
My previous role within IT management I had been pleased to introduce a recycling program which would mean that instead of throwing 1000’s of PCs directly into landfill they would be ‘recycled’. I (and probably most IT professionals) had never considered just what ‘recycled’ means?
Importing of this waste into China is illegal but in regions where the options seem to be unemployment or participation in the ‘recycling’ of global waste it is no wonder that these industries thrive in an attempt to survive.
What incentives are there for technology businesses to produce products which at the end of the day cause less impact on the globe, while balancing their own development needs to be competitive? How do we balance technological advances with the subsequent ecological impact, especially when the dumping/’recycling’ occurs out of sight in another country?
An interesting article entitled Exporting Harm The High Tech trashing of Asia was published by the BAN group, although a little old 2002 it has a lot of useful background information
I would be keen to hear your thoughts.
For further information on the international exportation of toxic trade go to the following site.
BAN Toxic trade watchdog