Global e-waste epidemic

Global e-waste epidemic

By Censored Project

From July 2014 to December 2015, BAN installed GPS tracking devices on 200 pieces of used, non-functional computer equipment sent to publicly accessible e-waste recycling sites around the US and then followed up on what happened to the equipment.

In May 2016, BAN found that sixty-five of the devices (approximately 32 percent) were exported, rather than recycled domestically. Based on the laws of the places where the e-waste was shipped, BAN estimates that sixty-two of the devices (31 percent) appeared to be illegal shipments. Puckett told Intercept that GPS tracking devices are "like little lie detectors ... They tell their story and they tell it without passion."

BAN partnered with Carlo Ratti of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Senseable City Lab to determine exactly where the equipment went. Ratti told PBS NewsHour that his fellow researchers were surprised by the distance traveled by the debris. E-garbage waste flows globally, "actually covering almost the entire planet." Each recycling device traveled an average of 4,000 kilometers, according to the BAN study.

Most of the teams went to Hong Kong, but BAN followed them with their devices to ten different countries, including China, Taiwan, Pakistan, Mexico, Thailand, Cambodia and Kenya. Elizabeth Grossman, writing for Intercept and quoting Puckett, said that the "new ground zero" for e-waste processing is in Hong Kong's New Territories sector, close to the border with China. As the Chinese government cracks down on e-waste imports, Chinese workers cross the border into Hong Kong without official documentation to do similar work there.

If disposed of improperly, e-waste can release a variety of toxins, including lead, mercury, and cadmium. However, the US only restricts exports of electronic waste of one type of component, cathode ray tubes. No federal law regulates e-waste recycling, although many states prohibit the dumping of used electronics at landfills and have e-waste recycling programs.

In Hong Kong, Puckett, a Chinese journalist, a translator and a local driver followed a GPS signal to a fence with an identification sign of land for cultivation. Looking to the other side, over the fence, Puckett found workers covered in toner and black inks - a probable carcinogen associated with respiratory problems - escaped by rupturing printers stacked up to 5 meters high in an area as large as a field. soccer. "There is no protection for this workforce ... There are no labor laws that are going to protect them," said Puckett. Shortly before, at another site where workers were dismantling LCD televisions, they encountered workers without protective masks who were unaware of the mercury vapors released when the fluorescent tubes that illuminate the LCD screens break. Even in small amounts, mercury can be a neurotoxin.

Since 182 national governments and the European Union signed the Basel Convention in 1989, an international treaty to stop the dumping of hazardous waste from developed countries into less developed countries, the US is the only industrialized country in the world that has not ratified the treaty. , as EarthFix reported.

In April 2016, US News & World Report published an article in anticipation of the release of the BAN report, "Unplugging: Goodwill and the gully of the export of public e-waste to developing countries." This matter has not been adequately covered in the US corporate press.

Katie Campbell and Ken Christensen, “On the Trail of America's Dangerous, Dead Electronics,” KCTS9 / EarthFix, May 9, 2016, /
Katie Campbell and Ken Christensen, “Watchdog Group Tracks What Really Happens to Your 'Recycled' E-Waste,” PBS NewsHour, PBS, broadcast May 9, 2016, transcript, watchdog-group-tracks-what-really-happens-to-your-recycled-e-waste /

Elizabeth Grossman, “GPS Tracking Devices Catch Major U.S. Recyclers Exporting Toxic E-Waste, ”Intercept, May 10, 2016, -exports /

Student Researcher: Karl Wada (College of Marin)

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)
Translation by Ernesto Carmona / Mapocho Press


Video: E-waste: Cleaning Up The Worlds Fastest-Growing Trash Problem (May 2021).