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Friday, June 10, 2011

System Failure: Cleaning up Waste's Dirty Deals

Waste Management World
Tom Freyberg illegal e0waste exports20 May 2011
A new report on illegal e-waste trafficking will once again spark debate over developed countries' cavalier attitudes when it comes to shipping off broken computers to Third World countries, says WMW chief editor Tom Freyberg.
… However, the scandal of illegal e-waste dumping, or waste trafficking as it's known, is not new. Over the years newspapers and environmental groups from around the world continue to publicise horrifying pictures of African and Asian children in developing countries putting their health and lives at risk.
A kid with old cathode ray tubes. photographed...Image via WikipediaSmall amounts of valuable metals, such as gold and copper are the target and obtaining these materials by hand is a dangerous task. … Copper wires are bundled and set on fire to remove flame-resistant coatings. CRT monitors are smashed with hammers. Any leftovers are often dumped in landfills, rivers or again, burnt. During this manual process toxic dioxins and plumes of cadmium dust are released.
… In 2009, a joint investigation found e-waste deposited at a council civil amenity site in Hampshire, England ended up in an electronics market in Lagos, Nigeria. … Many nations may point the finger of blame towards developed European countries but a new report from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has found that the U.S. also joins the list of 'e-waste usual suspects', including the UK, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The logo of the Organisation for Economic Co-o...Image via WikipediaCurrent regulations mean it is illegal to trade hazardous waste across national borders, if the receiving country does not consent to receive the goods. It's also prohibited for the EU to send hazardous waste to non-OECD countries. …
… Traders knowingly sell on e-waste for illegal export to developing countries, in the process breaking 'duty of care' responsibilities.
So what can be done? … The EIA recommends all electronic goods leaving civic amenity sites should be quantified and audited before being taken away.
Increased enforcement and funding will help with the issue but it ultimately comes down to one factor: companies should find profit elsewhere and take full global responsibility for their actions.
- Tom Freyberg is the chief editor of Waste Management World magazine.
EIA undercover investigations have revealed the extent to which illegal e-waste smugglers have penetrated the waste stream at every level. The full report can be read HERE
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