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The dark side of electronic waste recycling
Discusses issues related to shipping e-waste overseas.
CBS 60 Minutes: The Wasteland
Where does all the electronic refuse our society generates end up? Some of it is shipped illegally from the U.S. to China, reports Scott Pelley, where it is harming the environment and people.
Death by design
Consumers love - and live on - their smartphones, tablets and laptops. A cascade of new devices pours endlessly into the market, promising even better communication, non-stop entertainment and instant information. The numbers are staggering. By 2020, four billion people will have a personal computer. Five billion will own a mobile phone.
But this revolution has a dark side that the electronics industry doesn't want you to see.
In an investigation that spans the globe, award-winning filmmaker Sue Williams investigates the underbelly of the international electronics industry and reveals how even the tiniest devices have deadly environmental and health costs.
E-Waste and China
From Guiyu to a nationwide policy: e-waste management in China.
The article discusses the management of electronic waste, or e-waste, in Guiyu, China and the U.S. supply link revealed in a November 2008 episode of the "60 Minutes" television program. The article discusses the socioeconomic history of the region, health risks presented by the e-waste trade in Guiyu, and effects on migrant labor. Other e-waste management sites that exist outside Guiyu are mentioned. Evolving Chinese environmental policies designed to address e-waste and associated health effects also are discussed.
Environmental effects of heavy metals derived from the e-waste recycling activities in China: A systematic review
As the world’s leading manufacturing country, China has become the largest dumping ground for e-waste, resulting in serious pollution of heavy metals in China. This study reviews recent studies on environmental effects of heavy metals from the e-waste recycling sites in China, especially Taizhou, Guiyu, and Longtang.
Heavy Metals Concentrations of Surface Dust from e-Waste Recycling and Its Human Health Implications in Southeast China
The recycling of printed circuit boards in Guiyu, China, a village intensely involved in e-waste processing, may present a significant environmental and human health risk. The potential environmental and human health consequences due to uncontrolled e-waste recycling in Guiyu serves as a case study for other countries involved in similar crude recycling activities.
The democratic deficit of transnational environmental activism: a case study of e-waste governance in India.
The literature on transnational activism often associates environmental NGOs with democratic legitimacy, grassroots representation and environmental justice. Authors employ case studies to demonstrate how engaging in transnational networks increases the political agency of environmental NGOs. Yet, there is a tendency mostly to select successful cases. I investigate the political activities of the environmental NGO, Toxics Link, surrounding the recycling of electronic waste in India. Based on qualitative research, this study shows how the political incorporation of Toxics Link in transnational advocacy networks and domestic governance networks constrains their political agency. The structural exclusion of e-waste laborers from Indian policy negotiations negates the discursive claims of legitimacy, representation and justice. These incorporation processes create a democratic deficit.
From risk to resource? E-waste management and the concept of circular economy
This paper investigates some ways in which risks concerning electronic waste (e-waste) are done and undone in relation to the concept of circular economy. In doing so, it points to the performative character of risk along with the power relations and subsequent processes of normalisation that underlie these processes of doings and undoings. The findings suggest that e-waste is assumed to pose risk when treated outside the EU, while it is largely understood as a resource when treated within the EU or Western countries. Here, difference is created as e-waste is subjected to spatial transfers, in this case (global) trade.
E-products, E-waste and the Basel Convention: Regulatory Challenges and Impossibilities of International Environmental Law.
Electronic waste is recognized as the fastest growing hazardous waste stream of the twenty-first century. Because e-waste streams contain highly valuable precious metals and other secondary resources as well as hazardous toxic substances, the issue of their regulation lies at a liminal space between products and wastes. This complex legal interface engages the distinct and sometimes contradictory international regimes of liberalized trade and environmental protection. With most global flows of e-waste being treated by informal recycling industries in developing countries, and given the continued structural exclusion of these marginalized e-waste recycling sectors from official waste governance paradigms, the globalization of e-waste raises important environmental justice and North-South development issues. The present article examines the discussion of e-waste within international environmental law. In particular, it assesses new guideline developments under the Basel Convention on Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal. It is argued that despite its overarching objectives in relation to human health and environmental protection, the Basel Convention and the newly adopted Technical Guidelines on E-waste primarily ensure the continued circulation of obsolete electronic commodities in conditions that reproduce international externalities. The impossibility of this international environmental regime to foster any meaningful and authoritative notion of accountability over hazardous wastes that are generated through transboundary flows of 'products' inevitably limits its potential to curb the externalization of hazardous waste pollution to vulnerable populations who suffer the most acute health risks of global hi-tech production, consumption and reproduction. In essence, the success of this international regime over 'wastes' depends very critically on its coupling with national legislative controls over 'products' and more importantly, necessitates serious reflection on the legal dimensions of the notion of sustainable consumption.
Transboundary Movement of E-Waste.
The article reports on the government policies in regards to exports of electronic waste and mentions that most of the hazardous waste dumping is happening in Asian and African countries and that prohibitions of transboundary movement of hazardous waste policy alone cannot address the issue.
Groundbreaking, without Breaking New Ground: Redesigning e-waste recycling could clean up the supply chain while building the foundations for a hemispheric green future.
Imagine a world where "e-waste" is an obsolete term. This would stem the flow of e-waste to vulnerable communities while ensuring that the renewable energy infrastructure necessary for the Green New Deal - wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles, high-speed rail, batteries, and requisite information technology - will not run into any raw materials bottlenecks. Reformulating inter-American trade agreements could facilitate the transfer of e-waste to designated environmentally certified recycling facilities and incentivize recycled raw materials trading as part of a hemispheric renewable energy technology supply chain.
The Social Cost of Environmental Solutions
This article assesses the social consequences of efforts by multinational corporations to capture business value through recycling, reusing materials and reducing waste. Synthesising evidence from the global environmental justice and feminist and international political economy (IPE) literatures, it analyses the changing social property relations of global recycling chains. The authors argue that, although recycling more would seem to make good ecological sense, corporate programmes can rely on and further ingrain social patterns of harm and exploitation, particularly for the burgeoning labour force that depends on recyclables for subsistence living. Turning the waste stream into a profit stream also relies on prison labour in some places, such as in the United States where the federal government operates one of the country's largest electronics recycling programmes. The ongoing corporatisation of recycling, the authors argue further, is devaluing already marginalised populations within the global economy. Highlighting the need to account for the dynamism between social and environmental change within IPE scholarship, the article concludes by underlining the ways in which ‘green commerce’ programmes can shift capital's contradictions from nature onto labour.
Challenging the Chip by
Publication Date: 2006-06-28
From Silicon Valley in California to Silicon Glen in Scotland, from Silicon Island in Taiwan to Silicon Paddy in China, the social, economic, and ecological effects of the international electronics industry are widespread. The production of electronic and computer components contaminates air, land, and water around the globe. As this eye-opening book reveals, the people who suffer the consequences are largely poor, female, immigrant, and minority. "Challenging the Chip "is the first comprehensive examination of the impacts of electronics manufacturing on workers and local environments across the planet.
Made to Break by
Call Number: T173.8.S595 2006eb
Publication Date: 2009-06-30
Made to Break is a history of twentieth-century technology as seen through the prism of obsolescence. Giles Slade explains how disposability was a necessary condition for America's rejection of tradition and our acceptance of change and impermanence. This book gives us a detailed and harrowing picture of how, by choosing to support ever-shorter product lives, we may well be shortening the future of our way of life as well.
Informal processing of electronic waste at Agbogbloshie, Ghana: workers’ knowledge about associated health hazards and alternative livelihoods
This study was conducted to investigate the electronic waste workers' knowledge about the potential health hazards associated with their work as well as the livelihood alternatives that they would prefer if they were given the opportunity.
‘Away’ is a place: The impact of electronic waste recycling on blood lead levels in Ghana
E-waste recycling remains a major source of livelihood for many urban poor in developing countries, but this economic activity is fraught with significant environmental health risk.
Handling e-waste in developed and developing countries: Initiatives, practices, and consequences
Discarded electronic goods contain a range of toxic materials requiring special handling. Developed countries have conventions, directives, and laws to regulate their disposal, most based on extended producer responsibility. Manufacturers take back items collected by retailers and local governments for safe destruction or recovery of materials. Compliance, however, is difficult to assure, and frequently runs against economic incentives. The expense of proper disposal leads to the shipment of large amounts of e-waste to China, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, and other developing countries. Shipment is often through middlemen, and under tariff classifications that make quantities difficult to assess. There, despite the intents of national regulations and hazardous waste laws, most e-waste is treated as general refuse, or crudely processed, often by burning or acid baths, with recovery of only a few materials of value. As dioxins, furans, and heavy metals are released, harm to the environment, workers, and area residents is inevitable.
Fast Machines, Slow Violence: ICTs, Planned Obsolescence, and E-waste
This paper brings the temporalities of the global e-waste recycling trade into the temporal reckonings of speed, acceleration, and simultaneity typically associated with information and communications technologies (ICTs). Following feminist philosopher Sofia, it begins with a reconsideration of theories of technology as they relate to time and the environment. The second part of the paper suggests that recycling practices do not address the tempos of production, especially planned obsolescence. Bringing together Nixon's concept of slow violence with Sofia's theory of container technologies, this paper interrogates the speed, acceleration, and simultaneity often attributed to ICTs and globalization to argue that planned obsolescence functions as a type of slow violence, and that it structures the environmental politics of the information age.
Obsolescence of electronics - the example of smartphones
Planned obsolescence has recently been a common allegation to manufacturers, but proof apart from isolated cases is missing. This paper analyses the situation for smartphones, looks at use- and lifetime of smartphones and the underlying reasons for their obsolescence. Surveys show that a majority of consumers believes in “planned obsolescence” as a fact on the market and would like to have more durable products. Regarding smartphones, broken screens and bad battery performance are often reported problems. At the same time, most phones are still functioning when being replaced after the average use time of two years. How do these two aspects combine? Short product cycles, new functionalities and features trigger replacement purchases (functional and psychological obsolescence) more strongly than broken devices. Necessary repair of products is expensive due to miniaturized product design, glued in batteries, and the limited availability of replacement parts (economical obsolescence). Besides, buying new products is often subsidized by provider contracts.
Rotten eggs: e-waste from Europe poisons Ghana's food chain
Toxins from old computers, fridges and other electronic goods are polluting chicken eggs in an area where 80,000 people live
E-waste archives -- GoodElectronics
The GoodElectronics network has a vision of a global electronics industry characterized by adherence to the highest international human rights and sustainability standards. This page highlights issues related to e-waste.
Heavy Metals from e-Waste and Health Issues
E-Waste and Harm to Vulnerable Populations: A Growing Global Problem
Informal e-waste recycling is a source of much-needed income in many low- to middle-income countries. However, its handling and disposal in underdeveloped countries is often unsafe and leads to contaminated environments. Rudimentary and uncontrolled processing methods often result in substantial harmful chemical exposures among vulnerable populations, including women and children. E-waste hazards have not yet received the attention they deserve in research and public health agendas.
Poisoning the poor for profit: the injustice of exporting electronic waste to developing countries
Technological innovation coupled with planned product obsolescence has fostered a throwaway culture that has made electronic waste the fastest growing segment of the municipal waste stream in the United States. Annually, Americans discard millions of tons of electronic devices. This waste contains toxic substances known to cause significant physiologic harm or death to humans upon exposure and to degrade the environment when improperly managed.
Approximately 82% of electronic waste generated annually in the United States is not recycled and therefore must be discarded. Of the roughly 18% that is collected for recycling and reuse, approximately 50% to 80% is exported to developing countries as "recyclable" or "reusable" material.
Health risk assessment of the workers exposed to the heavy metals in e-waste recycling sites of Chandigarh and Ludhiana, Punjab, India
Investigations were made to analyze the effects of heavy metals on the adults and children working in informal e-waste recycling sectors of Chandigarh and Ludhiana, Punjab, India. Soil samples of the ground where recycling was being done, dust from the platform where recycling activities were done and dermal samples of workers were collected to estimate the presence of heavy metals (As, Cu, Co, Cd, Cr, Ni, Fe, Zn, Pb, Ba) in them. High concentration of Ba, Cu, Pb and Zn was observed in the soil and dust samples. Cr, Pb and Zn were observed in high concentrations in dermal samples. These heavy metals could cause serious health effects.