If not here, then where?

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

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Posted in ecological degradation, pollution
2 comments on “If not here, then where?
  1. jeremy says:

    A commitment to a ‘service and flow economy’ – one of the 4 pillars of natural capitalism – would discourage this kind of behaviour.

  2. Ron says:

    Venessa, I agree with you. Dell has introduced a program to take back desk tops, monitors, printers, servers and even handhelds. EBay in conjunction with Apple, Gateway, HP and Intel have launched and initiative to educate people on ways to disposed of unwanted computers and electronics. I believe that manufacturers have a role to play in the disposal of electronics. They must adopt a “Cradle to Grave” concept in the designing of products. This concept should not be limited to only computers and can very well be applied to buildings, appliances and cars.
    In Canada, the province of Alberta introduced a recycling tax on electronics on February 1, 2005. This move was a surprise as Alberta is the wealthiest province in Canada and the most right wing. This is the first ever steps by any governments in Canada to address the issue of electronic junk. As far as I know, no other provinces have implemented such a program.
    Jason, what has Ontario or Quebec done to address this issue?

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