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 user 2005-08-24 at 11:03:00 am Views: 45
  • #12441

    Tech scrapyards cause toxic waste workplace

    Greenpeace urging immediate action

    Greenpeace released a
    report last week condemning the current recycling of electronic waste
    in China and India. The environmental group found that “e-waste”
    recycling caused toxic heavy metals (e.g., antimony, barium, cadmium,
    copper, lead, mercury, tin) and organic compounds (e.g., flame
    retardants using bromine, chlorine, and phosphorous) to be released
    into the workplace and the environment, causing large scale health and
    safety problems.
    Examples given in the report include evidence from areas near the town
    of Guiyu in southern China and the suburbs of New Delhi, India. Over 70
    samples were taken from ground water, river sediment, industrial waste,
    and soil in those areas, and the samples were found to contain the
    metal toxins. Recycling programs throughout Asia are thought to be
    unregulated for the most part, and the people doing the recycling are
    unaware of the health risks. Most of the electronic waste dealt with in
    these countries comes from the West, both legally and illegally.
    Greenpeace scientist Dr. Kevin Bridgen sees the report as a wake-up
    call for manufacturers to eliminate toxins from the products they
    manufacture and take an active role in ensuring that those products are
    recycled at the end of their lifecycle.
    Some efforts to do this are already in place across the world. Japan,
    South Korea, Taiwan, and some U.S. states have legislation in place to
    make manufacturers more responsible for their products. Ireland has
    introduced the Waste and Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)
    directive, but it has caused prices to rise due to the extra fees it
    involves. The U.K. also plans to introduce the WEEE directive in the
    second half of next year. And the European Union has introduced the
    Restriction of Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic
    Equipment (RoHS) directive to stop hazardous substances from being used
    in the first place.


    This is a problem that is going to take a very long time to get on top
    of. It is only recently that governments have started to respond to the
    growing problem of e-waste, and manufacturers have had to be forced to
    take responsibility for their products.
    The focus at the moment seems to be on dealing with the waste an
    electronics product eventually ends up becoming. I think the focus
    should be put on making that product as toxin-free as possible before
    it is made. Most computers are obsolete after 5 years, and home
    electronics products make it to 10 if they’re lucky; yet the products
    are manufactured with materials that last much longer than that.
    There are inevitably going to be costs involved, and responsible
    manufacturing and recycling is expensive. You can bet that people will
    embrace it, though, if the process is done in an open manner and
    manufacturers can be seen actively using/encouraging recycling. For
    example, my Brother laser printer required a new toner cartridge a few
    weeks ago. I bought a new one, and it came with a freepost address and
    box for the old toner cartridge so that it could be recycled.
    That impressed me, and it puts Brother at the top of my list for future
    laser printer purchases. If computer manufacturers did the same it
    would eventually pay off in the same way.
    Manufacturers need to realize that recycling is going to be a part of
    their future, and the intelligent thing to do is see how they can make
    it a simple process. There may even be some money to be made out of it
    by re-using parts and refurbishing and updating machines for a further
    sale. I also think we are likely to see a few more recycling companies
    being created and dealing with the manufacturers’ waste for them