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Unintended Results From U.S. Hardware Dumps In Asia 412

Posted by timothy
from the where-stuff-goes dept.
Izeickl writes: "The BBC has a thought provoking story about old hardware being dumped in parts of Asia. The report 'details a group of villages in south-eastern China where computers from America are picked apart and strewn along rivers and fields.' the article also states 'The report suggested that as much as 80% of the America's electronic waste collected to be recycled is shipped out of the country.'"
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Unintended Results From U.S. Hardware Dumps In Asia

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  • Farming? (Score:4, Funny)

    by DiveX (322721) <slashdotcontact@oasisofficepark.com> on Monday February 25, 2002 @09:44AM (#3064526) Homepage
    "picked apart and strewn along rivers and fields."

    What are they trying to do....grow more computers?
    • Archeology (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Alien54 (180860) on Monday February 25, 2002 @10:30AM (#3064726) Journal
      "picked apart and strewn along rivers and fields." -- What are they trying to do....grow more computers?

      I keep having this picture of archeologists in thousands of years in the future going through all of this stuff, and trying to piece together an old PC. no tech manuals, etc.

      Alot of their success would depend on the level of their own technology, of course.

      • by surfimp (446809)
        Perhaps the archeologists will come to the conclusion that south eastern China was one of the most technologically advanced parts of the early 21st century world? After all, the article notes that as much as 80% of the U.S.'s electronic waste gets shipped out of country. Pottery shards today, hard drive fragments tomorrow...
      • by Decimal (154606) on Monday February 25, 2002 @12:15PM (#3065241) Homepage Journal
        I keep having this picture of archeologists in thousands of years in the future going through all of this stuff, and trying to piece together an old PC. no tech manuals, etc.

        (A.P. News 25,237 CE)

        Archeologists have made a great advance towards understanding the contents of fossilised "hard disks" with the discovery of what they are calling the "Pornsetta Stone"...
        • > > I keep having this picture of archeologists in thousands of years in the future going through all of this stuff, and trying to piece together an old PC. no tech manuals, etc.
          >
          > (A.P. News 25,237 CE)
          >
          > Archeologists have made a great advance towards understanding the contents of fossilised "hard disks" with the discovery of what they are calling the "Pornsetta Stone"...

          (A.P. News 25,238 CE)

          Jack Valenti DCLXVI, head of MPAGC (Motion Picture Association of the Galactic Confederacy), applauds the Confederacy for passing the SSSCA (Scieno Schutz-Staffel Copyright Act) and declaring archaeology a banned science for its crimes in supporting the actions of "Copyright Terrorists".

          On advice of the chief demographer, all archaeologists are to be shipped back to Teegeeack, buried near Hawaii, and thereby blown to smithereens...

  • There was an article recently, can't remember where, about shipd being sent to India for breaking up and recycling. Ships with lots of asbestos and other fun stuff in them. It's too expensive to recycle them in the west, so we send them to India.

    After all, it's just the wogs dying, right?

    • Re:India, too (Score:3, Informative)

      by sphealey (2855)
      The article is The Shipbreakers [theatlantic.com] in The Atlantic Magazine.

      sPh

    • Re:India, too (Score:3, Insightful)

      by deecha (410960)
      Interesting read. I am from India (now in the US).I did not know about the Alang shipbreaking yard from back home. It's really sad to see this kind of exploitation. Instead of blaming the west and the developed world for this mess totally, we must really look at the connivance of the "brown" man as well. This was possible only because the government of India, Indian businesses (who own the yards) "co-operated" and of course these guys are all Indians. All this is because of the lure of "greenbacks" offered by the developed nations. This is a case of man exploiting man. Forget about "neo-colonization" and other big words, it's the worst case of exploitation one comes across in which people of the same race,ethnicity are involved, in other words not "white" expoiting "brown" but "brown" exploiting "brown" and preventing their own kind from succeeding(in any sphere of life). This phenomenon is observed mostly in India, which is the reason why Indians dont prosper at home, when they go abroad they do ! In the end who really cares about those 40,000 people at the ship breaking yard ? No one really.

  • by BlueboyX (322884) on Monday February 25, 2002 @09:47AM (#3064539)
    It was an anime/manga in which a whole society lived on a planet that was a dump for another society's high tech trash. Enough of the junk worked or partially worked that they were able to make a fairly high tech society themselves; although it was a fairly lawless one. Living off of the trash of others has a psychological impact...
    • The same theme played out in the fantastic but much overlooked CRPG "Septerra Core."

    • >It was an anime/manga in which a whole society lived on a planet that was a dump for another society's high tech trash. Enough of the junk worked or partially worked that they were able to make a fairly high tech society themselves; although it was a fairly lawless one. Living off of the trash of others has a psychological impact..

      I can't vouch for an entire culture, but I can speak to this personally.

      My TV is a 28" set that was thrown away for a $3.20 vertical deflection IC. The AC cord (because the owner cut the old cord) cost more than the fix. I picked it up because (a) I didn't have a TV, and (b) I figured I'd have more fun, and learn more, by fixing an old one than buying a new one, (c) If I could fix it, it's 100 pounds less landfill. If I couldn't fix it, I'd put it back on the curb where I found it, and (d) I'm a cheap bastard.

      My DVD player was born as a P166MMX with an ancient ATI card that had TV-out, but no MPEG2 decoder support. I got lucky and found a BIOS upgrade for the motherboard that would let me run lower voltages required for a K6-III. So now it runs (FSB overclock) at 500 MHz and decodes the stream with brute force. (The only time I got glitches in the video stream was when I forgot to enable DMA mode on the DVD-ROM).

      My current computer is 3 years old. It began as a C366. It's now at 1GHz. The only component I've upgraded was the CPU for $50. Won't play Wolfenstein at ultra-high-res, but it's good enough for my computing and gaming needs.

      My monitor was a 19" Sony flat-screen CRT. $125 at a surplus store. (And I was able to hand my 17" to a friend.)

      Just last weekend, I recovered some data off a 15-year-old 40M Seagate ST-251 and an old '286. (Moral of the story, make two CDs for backing up data, in case one of your CDs gets zorched.) A couple of twists with the wrist to loosen the bearings and get the stiction-killed drive to spin up, and a couple of BIOS-based cylinder seek tests to spread the lube along the rails. (First run, it'd seek OK for a while, then pause for 1-2 seconds on some problematic cylinders. Second run, it got a little "better" at moving the head. 10 minutes later, it was fine. I was amazed.)

      Getting more life out of "junk" hardware by fscking around with it can also be fun.

  • That sucks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mikeboone (163222) on Monday February 25, 2002 @09:49AM (#3064550) Homepage Journal

    I've been amassing old computer junk in my closet for years. I'm almost to the point where I was going to pay to have them recycled [ibm.com]. But damn, for all I know, I'm probably just paying for shipment to China!

    I think there has to be an upcoming business opportunity in recycling this stuff, and doing it in an environmentally responsible manner. I'd almost be willing to start the ball rolling myself. Any resources out there for learning how to do it?

    • Re:That sucks (Score:2, Informative)

      by RazzleFrog (537054)
      Not sure about recycling but the Liberty Science Center [lsc.org] in New Jersey was taking donations of old computer parts for learning purposes. I am not sure if they still do or not. Check around your area to see if there is a similar program.
    • by Eagle7 (111475) on Monday February 25, 2002 @10:09AM (#3064632) Homepage
      Actually, I used to work at (one of) the IBM sites where the recycling takes place (Endicott, NY). At least IBM's program is legit - there was just too much space and too many people there for it to be a "front" to an overseas shipping operation.
    • Anything over a P5-200Mhz I will pay to have shipped to me. I have found that old hardware is extremely useful in distributed networks.

      And you can have the piece of mind that your computers will actually be used.
  • by psxndc (105904)
    They can just bring them to my house. Seriously, I'll take 'em.

    psxndc

    • Re:If they want... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ShadeARG (306487)
      i would, and so would a lot of other people. they need to ship them to a stockyard, put them in catalogs and place them on the internet. that would catch, especially if all you have to pay for is shipping for the item you want to buy.. hell, put a 5 item or weight minimum on each order. now that's something alot of the younger generations would visit many times a day religiously just to see what's around--and they would actually be able to afford some things to tinker around with. imagine the amount of drivers and documentation that such an act would surface into the open source community. Allowing the new generation of soft and hard coders to work with some simpler devices would pay off for everyone in the long run. every great coder has to start somewhere..
  • Ships stranding (Score:2, Interesting)

    by selderrr (523988)
    Last I heard from greenpeace about chemical corps just filling up a whole ship with waste barrels and letting it strand on an african shore. It sits there waiting to fall apart andspread it's deadly cargo into the oceans.

    Eat more fish they say... contains no mad cow disease... ha !
  • Have anyone seen those graveyards for ships where they are taking them apart? Looks like a scene for a post-nuclear-war movie.
  • "Everybody knows this is going on, but they are just embarrassed and don't really know what to do about it,"
    If we stopped shipping this crap out to other countries, and it started piling up here uncontrollably, I think we'd be forced to find a way to deal with it...it really makes me sick that we use other countries as dumping grounds.
  • Just an example that we need a global recycling system for hardware components. Few countries have implemented laws that demand hardware producers to take back their products and recycle them as much as possible. Such a thing can't be handled by single nations IMHO - or governments at all.
    The hardware industry should come together and create binding recycling standards. It is sad that there is still a large share of computer companies ignoring environmental concerns.
    • by TikkaMassala (411282) on Monday February 25, 2002 @10:32AM (#3064739)
      Well, if you read the article, the Basel Convention says:

      " Convinced that States should take necessary measures to ensure that the management of hazardous wastes and other wastes including their transboundary movement and disposal is consistent with the protection of human health and the environment whatever the place of disposal. "

      So it seems that the convention exists, but the US is flatly rejecting accepting it. But I imagine that came as no shock to anyone, as it's not benefitting the US in any way whatsoever, and so is not important. How many times do we need to see the US exploiting the needs of other countries to save a few bucks before we demand that it stops? The US can't run around the world, butting in to conflicts and acting like some sort of benevolent super-sentient being, when during its time off from being a global-cop it likes to dump mercury in Asia. That's just hypocrisy like we've never seen before. USA! USA!

    • by ischemic (527226) on Monday February 25, 2002 @11:08AM (#3064920)
      California is proposing a law [siliconvalley.com] requiring companies to take back their products.

      To me, this seems like the right way to go, provided that the companies don't just ship the product out of country where it becomes someone else's problem.

      If we force manufacturers to charge for the full cost of technology, instead of subsidizing them as tax-payers, then they will tend to develop interesting ways to reduce the cost of recycling. This also lets consumers integrate the price of disposal into the purchasing decision, rewarding companies that have cleaner products.

      However, if you want that way 31337 toaster with embedded, overclocked, uranium cooled processor, then you are welcome to it -- provided that you pay for the full cost, including its safe recycling.

  • by mizhi (186984) on Monday February 25, 2002 @09:53AM (#3064565) Homepage
    This reminds me of a report a few years back that found that most paper being put into recycling bins actually wound up being stockpiled in warehouses because companies weren't buying enough post-consumer paper. Same thing was happening in Austria. It kinda made me a bit cynical about the whole environmental issue. (I still recycle most of the stuff I can, but I always get skeptical whenever a new 'study' comes out on the benefits of recycled materials.)

    But I digress... so, in PA, we're not allowed to throw out computers. We have to take them to recycling centers... well, technically. I still think most people just toss the machines. For the reason that toxic metals will leech into the ground and pollute the water. What a shame that we're shipping all our crap to other countries to pollute. :-/

    • In Minnesota, we have strict laws about throwing out old computers too. In some places (Minneapolis), the laws are taken seriously. In other places (northern Minnesota), they aren't.

      However, I was talking to someone who had a relative in the computer recycling business. If they recieved anything that had no resale value (and they frequently did), they'd just ship it to Wisconsin, which has lax landfill laws.

  • out with the old (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 25, 2002 @09:54AM (#3064566)
    It is only thought provoking if you are like most americans that have never travelled outside the US to see these kinds of things first hand. It actually says more about your lack of awarness than it does about any sort of industrial posture. Russia dumps subs off Japan and Korea. Britain dumps medical waste off the coast of Sri Lanka...Australia dumps scrap metal into the South polar seas...New York City dumps commercial waste into the Atlantic. Just because you don't see it doesn't mean it's new or newsworthy. Get outside and take a look for yourself. Visit India and the Balkans and the South Seas and Asia. Waste has a meaning you obviously missed during history class.
    • by west (39918)
      It is only thought provoking if you are like most americans that have never travelled outside the US to see these kinds of things first hand.
      Just because you don't see it doesn't mean it's new or newsworthy.


      You come across as rather self-aggrandizing as well as patronizing.

      First, if you know this is occurring all along and think it's a problem, I would imagine that you would be happy to see this get publicity in order that perhaps some corrective action might be taken. Instead you take the opportunity to point out that you personally knew about the "disposal of computer" problem beforehand, so everyone should have already been aware of it.

      Anything that a large part of the population doesn't already know may well be considered newsworthy. Perhaps you should have said that it is sad that this *is* newsworthy.

      Secondly, a visit to a particular less-developed countries does not automatically confer knowledge of various environmental disasters in all other countries. Your post really had the tone of "all eco-disasters in third world countries are alike". Each problem may have a separate cause and sure as anything has a different solution. Certainly, different disasters are worth different stories. I'd hate to think a single "Western goods cause echo-disaster" story is all one needs to know on the entire subject.

      Lastly, the Americans may be famous for their insularity, but I'd bet money that the BBC was mostly addressing this to Europeans that were unaware of the problem. I know from personal experience that they could certainly have addressed this particular issue to Canadians.
    • just because it happens somewhere else as well...
      doesn't mean it's OK

  • Full Report Details (Score:3, Informative)

    by phil_atk (545228) on Monday February 25, 2002 @09:55AM (#3064569)
    For reference, the source of the BBC report can be found at www.ban.org [ban.org]

    I think two points are worth noting - firstly, for better or worse, the source of the report and its tone are set firmly within the environmentalist camp.

    Secondly - this problem is probably the tip of the iceberg, and is certainly a very real threat to the environment in the next few decades. I personally believe we should take significant action now to prevent the need for another Kyoto (where this would be a serious issue) ten years from now.

    • What would the anti-environmentalist camp's perspective on it be? That trees generate more waste circuit boards and plastics than disposed computers do? Or that discarded electronics make great fertilizer for trees?
  • Apparently California is considering imposing fees on the purchase of computer hardware to cover the costs of recycling.

    The question is, if I want to keep the hardware I buy in the closet forever when I'm through using it, do I still have to pay the fee?
    • by leereyno (32197) on Monday February 25, 2002 @11:07AM (#3064917) Homepage Journal
      Instead of charging someone X number of dollars for the cost of recycling, they should charge X*2 number of dollars and then PAY each person who brings in a computer X number of dollars.

      That way people would have an incentive to do the right thing instead of just dumping it someplace and the program would pay for itself due to inflation and the fact that not EVERYONE is going to recycle, even if it pays.

      As for the inflation angle, it works like this. If someone pays you X number of dollars and Y number of years later you pay them back the same exact ammount of money, well then you're actually paying them X/(inflation_rate^Y) in real dollars. This is why you almost NEVER see interest free loans, the lenders lose money on them. In the case of computers, the lifespan is short enough that the devaluation of the money from inflation would not be so great as to reduce it to nothing.

      Lee
  • by RedMage (136286) on Monday February 25, 2002 @09:57AM (#3064575) Homepage
    I know around these parts (Eastern MA), I just can't get rid of the stuff. It piles up in closets, clutters up counters, sits in heaps in the corners. Old monitors my eyes can no longer tolerate, strange boards with bus interfaces I can no longer use, old hardrives too small to bother with. Its illegal to put in the trash, and even the "hasardous waste" pickup wont take monitors anymore. As more and more "average" people upgrade old computers, the problem will only get worse. Already I see "dumping" of old eletronics at the goodwill drop sites in the middle of the nights. I don't know what they do with the stuff, since it probably can't easily be sold or scrapped. Electronic waste will be a serious problem in the near future, and not just for our poorer friends in China.
    • Has anyone heard of yard sales? Just slap a $1 sticker on each piece of old, non-working equipment and your local junk collectors (and there are many of them!) will swoop in and take your problems away, leaving you a fist full of singles in their wake. Just don't ask them what they're planning to do with the stuff.
  • CNN has a more detailed article [cnn.com] regarding this. China, India and Pakistan are main destination for the rubblish.

    The situation is quite frightening. Consequently, the groundwater (near Guiyu, China) is so polluted that drinking water has to be trucked in from a town 18 miles away, the report said.
    These "high tech" waste is especially hazardous to these poor workers. Medical waste (eg used bandage) usually smells and look nasty, everyone know they are dirty. Villagers usually have no clue toxic heavy metal will leak to groundwater, burning the plastic will generate very toxic smoke... before too late.

    Probably, it is now to add a "prepaid" waste recycling fee to new computers....
  • Thats where i sell all my old shit!
  • Are you so sure that the title is warranted? Somehow I doubt that this effect is entirely unintended.

    After all, speaking as the Ugly American that I am, it seems that the main point is to get the crap we don't want out of the country. Well, shit, mission accomplished there, huh?

    What happens to it afterward is not our problem. And frankly, I live in an area once known for its steel foundries, and never known for environmental consciousness.

    --saint
  • by thesolo (131008) <slap@fighttheriaa.org> on Monday February 25, 2002 @10:04AM (#3064606) Homepage
    Apparently, I was wrong.

    These kinds of things really tick me off. I've recycled numerous old systems, in the hopes that they either went to some good, or were safely broken down, to be used in other applications. Instead, they probably just got dumped in a landfill.

    I guess I shouldn't be so surprised, these types of things always happen with recycling. Recycled papers sit in warehouses because companies don't frequently buy post-consumer stock. Glass & tires that were originally planned to be melded together to make a new, cheap pavement wind up sitting in their respective piles. Tires that were supposedly going to be used for recreating habitats for aquatic life are instead burned.

    And now, all our old 286s are dumping mercury & lead into China. If my old Vendex Headstart 8086 is sitting over there, instead of being recycled, I'll be very, very upset.

    Is there anything we can really do to ensure that our equipment doesn't wind up in some other country's landfill??
  • by CDWert (450988)
    And the point is ?

    Yes I know this is bad for the enviroment, but the simple fact is its not like China is colony of the US and we are forcing th govt to accept the waste, THEY ARE BEING PAID !!!!!

    If CHINA chooses NOT to give a shit about its citizens it on them, and THEY should have to answer for it.

    This is NOT about the US, get it understand it and live with it.

    Now, the people, well thats unfortunate, it really is, BUT IT THEIR GOVERMENTS(CHINA) FAULT !

    Wide spread mass industrial pollution with NO regard to the enviroment is seen on both ends, the capatilist and the COMMUNIST side, the latter aswers to noone and it is thus a fair bit worse in general, no dont belive me ? Ask all the people in eastern europe what things were like during USSR rule.

    Ok, so you want an alternative use ? Lets drop all this crap out of B52's on Iraq, and all the US enemies, a hell of a lot cheaper than smart bombs, could you imagine what damage a monitor would do falling form 30000 feet ?
    • THEY ARE BEING PAID !!!!!

      I think I'm experiencing what we Europeans call an Ugly American moment.

      It'll pass.

      • by Milican (58140) on Monday February 25, 2002 @10:26AM (#3064706) Journal
        When other people are doing things which we know are harmful to them and their environment we have a responsibility to try and help deter this act. However, so does their government. Their government elected (or not) by their people has the primary responsibility in looking after its own people. Our responsibilities are secondary. We (the US) are not God, we are not the world's baby sitter, we are not ultimately responsible for every other governments ineptitude and disregard for its own people. With that in mind I think a small recycling tax pre-paid for every computer part should be charged. In exchange a convenient and local outlet for recycling should be provided. I don't wanna have to pay $30 to recycle my 286. Thats bullshit. I'll just chunk it in the garbage first if thats the case. I know, I'm a pompus jackass for doing so, but I bet nine times outta ten thats what you do too.. so :P

        Anyway, I guess thats the problem in the United States. Everyone is saying recycle, recycle, but no one (except maybe Cali or Oregon) gives you convenient resources to actually do it. If I wanna recycle my plastic I have to drive to some distanct Wal-Mart with a trunk full of trash to do so.

        JOhn
    • The problem is people that thought they were doing some good by recycling these computers are actually contributing to the damage the human population is doing to the earth. Regardless of the fact that the Chinese government is paying for it, the people trying to do some good are in effect supporting pollution, and THAT is the problem.

      I am the farthest thing from an environmentalist (I still have yet to see a clear cut case for or against global warming), but pollution isn't a "China" or "US" problem, it's a world problem. When Chernobyl blew up, it dumped fallout all over, not just Russia. It wasn't "their" problem, it was everyone's. The same can be said for the oceans and I'm sure people can make cases for the land.

      psxndc

      • by Mop (30370)
        pollution isn't a "China" or "US" problem, it's a world problem


        That's why we create international treaties for these problems, that every countries ratify (except the US when the obligation would cost money to US companies).
  • by Migx (551367) on Monday February 25, 2002 @10:09AM (#3064631) Homepage
    Toxic garbage has to be dealt and everybody knows that the cheapest solution always comes first... The transfer of hazardous waste is restricted by a 1989 treaty known as the Basel Convention, but the United States has not ratified it. why am I not suprised??
  • by greensquare (546383) on Monday February 25, 2002 @10:20AM (#3064679)
    My gut feeling is that if this old junk is getting shipped over seas it is probably because someone over there wanted it and paid for it. I refuse to feel guilty about this. Some enterprising people probably realized that they could make a few bucks taking apart old computers. Perhaps that money went to buy food for some starving people.

    How is my problem if people in other countries, far, far away, don't care as much about "preserving their scenic countryside" as they do about eating?

  • by BurritoWarrior (90481) on Monday February 25, 2002 @10:24AM (#3064696)
    Donate your old system to your local high school, or grammar school, or charity. Give it to a poor child in your neighborhood.

    Or try here [compududes.com] or here [eiae.org], just to name a couple.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 25, 2002 @10:31AM (#3064732)
      I worked for a rather large school district in Central Illinois. I had initially worked up a project to put together a training lab cooperative for use by my district and a neighboring (smaller) district, as well as by disadvantaged students and their families. I had a location selected with a committment for reduced cost rent, donated phone and internet access from Verizon, and 50 computers/servers/laptops on tap from State Farm. Neither district showed an ounce of interest, even though the work had been done for them and it would have given them a professional quality staff training facilty that doubled as a resource for the poor kids in both districts to help them with their technology skills and grades.

      The company I worked for before that had tried to donate 200 computers and a full TK ring network with switches and wiring... they turned their nose up because it meant they would have to hire a network admin slash support person to run it... this is a rural school district with almost no computers and some of the lowest SAT/ACT scores in the stat of Illinois.

      My best friends wife's company tried to donate pallet loads of computers and office furniture (they make it in Iowa) to their local school district... same thing, no interest.

      For every school that is progressive and interested in donations in this country, there are four who would rather not. Piss on our education system, the liberal economy and politics of the 70's and 90's has totally screwed this country... we have gone from #1 to #11 in the world.
      • by Mignon (34109)
        Neither district showed an ounce of interest

        they turned their nose up because it meant they would have to hire a network admin slash support person to run it

        Piss on our education system, the liberal economy and politics of the 70's and 90's has totally screwed this country

        You lost me - what's the connection between anything that happened in the '70's and '90's and what kept these donations from being accepted? (And why, then, are the '80's immune?)

        • "(And why, then, are the '80's immune?)"

          Reagan. He is a republican god and in the time of reagan the us was a perfect place to live. Nobody ever got hurt, nobody was hungry, everybody had a job, everybody was happy. I believe that the suicede rate reached 0% in the 80's. I also think there were no fires and no crime. My text books don't say any of that but I am pretty sure that's due to the liberals rewriting history. Those god damned teachers and ruining this country (well them and all the fags).
      • by elflord (9269)
        Piss on our education system, the liberal economy and politics of the 70's and 90's has totally screwed this country... we have gone from #1 to #11 in the world.

        Funny how a lot of the countries who beat the US in education also have liberal economy and politics, even more so than the US. I don't think "liberal" anything has very much to do with it.

    • nope. doesn't happen.

      I know of several HS's that refuse "old" hardware for the simple reason that they don't need it. They are looking for higher-end systems. Old 486's and even low-end P5's aren't worth it.

      They get enough donations of real hardware and real moeny to buy some decent computers.

      They will just probably end up in the heap as well :(

      I will continue to load up my closets w/the junk. I somehow always find a use for most hw.
  • ...before I read anything else, I expected to read about some mechowarrior / android / wireless WAN/ d.net cruncher / cybernetic exoskeleton, being created out of unused computer materials. That would've been the ultimate hack.

  • Seriously, if the material in computers were in short supply, then there would be profit in recycling computers and companies would be out trying to make a buck doing it. Same thing for paper and any other recycling.

    Because this recycling business is driven by fear of a shortage instead of a real shortage, there is not money to be made in it so stuff like this happens.
  • Why dump them? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Xerion (265191)
    Most of China is still very poor, and schools there (if any) have unimaginable budgets. In some remote areas, a kid would be fortunate to have a textbook. I wonder why can't US just give China all its old hardwares in *usable* form instead of smashing them. It really doesn't matter how old the machines are, some people will be glad to have it. It would be mutually beneficial in the end.
  • by ThesQuid (86789) <`a987' `at' `mac.com'> on Monday February 25, 2002 @10:37AM (#3064754) Journal
    1. Practically everything in China is recycled. I've seen old folks / poor people rummage through trashbins with tongs looking for whatever is valuable for picking up some cash. This usually is cans or plastic soda bottles, which usually end up being turned into low-quality polyproplene or such.

    2. While the cities I've been to in the last five years have considerably cleaned up their act, China still has an enormous problem with littering. Ever seen the commercials showing the roadside trash from the early 70's in America? That's China nowadays.

    3. Many electronic components are desoldered and reused by small mom-and-pop outfits that want to get into business, and don't mind cheaper used components. When you've got lots of people who want to get ahead in life, they will use any resource at their disposal.

  • Oh come on (Score:5, Insightful)

    by letxa2000 (215841) on Monday February 25, 2002 @11:04AM (#3064895)
    Oh come on, this is a non-issue.

    1. We are not forcing this old hardware on anyone. If it's ending up in China or India it's because the people there think they can make some money off of it.

    2. Even if they CAN make some money off of it, it's not our fault they throw the exploited "recycled" hardware in rivers. Come on. Crap in your refrigerator and it's going to have some negative affects on your food. Don't complain to someone else because you decided to crap there.

    3. If the Chinese government sees this as a problem they should not let the stuff be imported. If it's being imported illegally the Chinese government should have no problem prosecuting (i.e., executing) the offending party.

    Do I want my old computer ending up in a river? No. But don't blame me if it does, *I* didn't throw it in a river or asked anyone to burn plastic off its wires...

    There are too many other responsible parties here that are DIRECTLY responsible to come after me with some tax or $30 increase on PC sales to try to resolve the problem. You want to solve the problem? Have China ban the practice. If China doesn't see it as a problem then why the hell should we?

    Come on, I'm sick of this environmental psycho-babble.

    • > If China doesn't see it as a problem then why the hell should we?

      hahaha. I love it.

      1. Story might somehow implicate the US as slightly less than innocent.

      2. People go on about how fucked up China is with human rights abuses.

      3. People go on about how if China doesn't see anything wrong with it, why should they.

      The hypocracy is beautiful. Keep it comin'. The US has to send an army into every country that isn't sufficiently 'free' .. while dumping their garbage in potentially one of the most unfree countries.

      And some Americans continue to wonder why their country has a repulation for being internationally ethical when it's purely self-serving. (Not that any government is an angel, but the words co-operation, compromise or sacrifice are considered dirty words as soon as there is some suggestion that the US might have room to alter their policies for the better.)
    • The EPA has a rule about wastes that states the party disposing is responsible from "cradle to grave." This means if the trash man that takes my waste illegally dumps it into someone's back yard, I am responsible for all clean up costs. This makes me more inclined to be vigilant when dealing with my trash service.

      Be careful what you throw away. Old wastes have come back to haunt many and the cleanup bill can be devestating.
    • Do I want my old computer ending up in a river? No. But don't blame me if it does, *I* didn't throw it in a river or asked anyone to burn plastic off its wires...

      Come on. You want it sent off to the cheapest "waste disposal" or "recycling" company in China, and then you want to pretend that you don't know what they'll do with it ?

      There are too many other responsible parties here that are DIRECTLY responsible to come after me with some tax or $30 increase on PC sales to try to resolve the problem.

      The parties that produce the waste are responsible for safely disposing of it. Having China "ban" it does not solve anything, because you're still going to use the lowest bidder as your "waste disposal" company, and it will end up in a river in some other country.

    • Re:Oh come on (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mankei (248730)
      I cannot believe that this comment is modded as insightful.

      1. The people there are too poor that they have to make a little money off your toxic garbage, risking their lives probably without knowing it. Why are you still selling the stuff to them when you know it is going to kill them?

      2. Well do you think they know the stuff is toxic or have the proper knowledge of how to dispose of the harzardous material? They are all lowly educated farmers or workers for fsck's sake. If I let a 3-year-old kid drink detergent or whatever, can I still say without guilt something like "Don't complain to someone else because you decide to crap there"?

      3. Just because you commit murder in a foreign country where the government is too incompetent to charge you it doesn't mean you are doing something right.

      If you fully know your old computer will end up killing some poor people in China or India, why don't you spend a little bit more, probably insignificant to your well being, to save them from being exploited? Or do you think a life in China is not worth your $30?
  • If any of you get/read the New York Times, they have an article on the same topic:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/25/technology/25T OX I.html

    NYTimes registration yadda-yadda-yadda.
  • Draw a parallel (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Quixote (154172) on Monday February 25, 2002 @11:06AM (#3064910) Homepage Journal
    If the US can export hazardous waste to these countries, how is that any different from Colombia sending drugs to the US?
    It may sound like twisted logic at first, but think about it.
    Country A produces a product that it ships to country B. This product is used by the poor in country B to make some money, but in the process they end up hurting their own communities. Not only that, this product spreads, causing harm in more affluent communities living further away.
    Replace "A" with Colombia and "product" with drugs and you have the current drug war.
    Or, replace "A" with US, "product" with toxic waste, and you have the current toxic waste dumping scenario.
    Think about it.
    • Re:Draw a parallel (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Clanner (24684)
      It's different in that a presumeably legit Chinese business was paid to accept this hardware waste. Presumably, this transaction is not illegal in China. Like it or not drugs are illegal in the US. It's like some recycling company is smuggling old equipment into China- they're paying some one to accept it. When was the last time a Columbian drug lord paid some one in the US to accept his drugs? Don't you think it's usually the other way around?
  • by ecc0 (548386)
    Hello! This is Junis [slashdot.org] from South-Eastern China! I am writing this on a rusted PDP-11/34 with 8" disk drives and Linux I found in the river, which I hooked up to the Internet using barbed wire and a 300 bps modem I found under a chicken coop. I write to thank you, USA, for all the computers! It is really helping my country to progress in IT! I also love American culture like martial arts movies, anything to do with Star Wars, and rap! I believe "Temptation Island" and "Baywatch" will be number one shows in China soon!

    Yours,
    Junis
  • There's a lot of international traffic in garbage. For example, Kingston, Ontario has sent most of its garbage to landfills in Michigan (which is about 20 times further than New York State, but much more eager to receive it) for at least 5 years now. Toronto was set to do that too, but the Sept 11 events have made border crossing slower, so they're still keeping most of it locally.

  • is considerable and I'm delighted to have a chance to share my own experiences on the topic in a way that might clarify some of the issues brought up by the article.
    Although we often think of motherboards as the thing that holds the CPU, in fact monitors also have motherboards and even your power supply has a little motherboard in it.
    One thing these motherboards or printed circuit boards all have in common is that they generally have all kinds of goodies like capacitors and transistors on one side and a bunch of solder holding them on from the back side.
    By heating the back side of a printed circuit board with the component side facing down, it is quite possible and practical to remove many valuable and toxic components without damaging them because of the delightful fact that heat tends to rise rather than sink, so by heating the back of the board, you can save all those great little toys. This activity in itself can be quite entertaining. I like to call it "el bueno pinata" because the parts fall to the ground with a delightful clatter like the candy from a pinata with severed entrails.
    I must confess that when I started playing "el bueno pinata" as a youngster, I did, in fact, use a propane torch which generated generous amounts of rather toxic smelling smoke. As this is both a cheap and effective technique for getting started in "el bueno pinata," it is probably what the report was referring to.
    But let's not just jump to the conclusion that this means it's wrong to try and recycle components that have previously been soldered to a PCB. It just indicates that these people are hesitant about going about it the right way because they haven't seen enough profits yet. But don't worry. There's plenty of room for profits in the recycled electronics market and as the profits grow, the recycling techniques will become more sophisticated as mine have.
    I no longer use a propane torch when I play "el bueno pinata" because there were simply too many complaints about the smell and the smoke etc. So, I tried a few different techniques. I tried using a clothes iron, but I found that it wasn't hot enough. Eventually I rigged up a custom device very similar to an iron, but with a greater heat output and I now use that to slowly and smokelessly desolder old TVs, monitors and power supplies. These are generally where the fun is at for my interests so far. But even if you don't want to get into tesla coils and all that nerd stuff, you can at least blow up the capacitors for fun and give the transistors to someone who enjoys such toys.
    Once you clean the components off a circuit board, there's not much left and putting it in a landfill doesn't seem to be such a crime although I'm sure they could be further recycled for the metal sandwiched within the board. Either way, the mass is greatly reduced and many valuable parts that are usually for the most part in working condition can be used as is.
    In the case of a monitor, all you're left with is a bunch of plastic and the tube itself which certainly should be recycled professionally as it has lots of valuable goodies within. Stripping it to that point though, is certainly worth doing if you care about the recycling and are interested in learning a bit about electronics.
    As for power supplies, after you strip out the transformers, capacitors, transistors there's nothing left.
    In fact, motherboards may be the most useless pieces of the whole PC for the average PC enthusiast while ironically being the only piece that most people care to deal with because of the warnings on all the fun stuff about "Dangerous Whoo Hoo Inside" It's a pity that the industry assumes everyone should stay and idiot instead of trying to educate the public about how they could safely repurpose some of those parts.
    But that's what's cool about Slashdot. It makes up for where the PC industry left to its own devices fumbles the play.
    Anyway, couldn't rant like this without at least one reference and that would have to be Sam's Repair FAQs. If you've never checked them out, then I highly recommend them.
    For those of you with old hardware laying around, especially burnt our monitors and power supplies, I invite you, moreover I grant you permission to play "el bueno pinata"
  • Vast amounts of used clothing and old US cars go to Mexico. Some of the clothes are re-used while others are recycled into industrial rags.
  • Makes me wonder how other countries handle their electronic trash.

    Also reminds me of something that happened while I was visiting a client in Tokyo.... while riding the high-speed train to the convention center... he pointed to the land surrounding the convention center and said "this used to be ocean... how do you think we got this land?"... I said "I dunno"... He said "every year japaneese throw out old electronics and buy new electronics. We put electronics in bay and build convention center on top.".

    Now... I never knew whether or not he was serious - I suspect he was... .but after reading the article - and pondering this... isn't that bad for their environment?

  • I was talking to one guy that works for DRMO (a goverment agancy that sells old computers and such) He was telling me how they get 1-2 year old Sun servers and cover pot holes in roads with them. I could not sleep all night. They take these Suns that still work and have a good value and just grind them up to fill holes in roads. The reson they can't sell them (this is was the goverment want's you to belive) is that they held top secret information. Hmmm, hello? junk the hard drives but spare the other parts! Thats what they use to do but my guess is that it's "cost prohibitive" now.

    This site is in Germany.
    • Well, if you look on ebay, a lot machines that have had 'sensitive information' stored on them have their HDDs, RAM, cables, keyboards and mice pulled for 'security' reasons. +)
  • The companies that build these things should be made to set up facilities for getting rid of the products when they are no longer used. This would even apply to industries that produce things other than computers.

    Think about it. GE should be the one to pay for getting rid of CFC's from the refrigerators that they manufacture. This would force them to either raise the price of what they sell, or find a better way to manufacture it (without CFC's for instance).

    Computers are built with the knowledge that they will be obsolete in a few years, so it should come as no suprise that if they sell X number of machines in one year, that in 3-4 years that many machines will need to be recycled.

    At the very least, a law like this would prevent AOL from producing millions of disks that get thrown into the garbage unopened, or from someone even proposing a throwaway product like DIVX (old DIVX, not new Divx :-).
  • I saw a group of well dressed women walking down the street last night, all close to middle age and they were all having fun ya know, and one was calling out to the group:

    "Amsterdam, where is Amsterdam?"

    response:

    "I think thats Holland."

    I stared at them trying to figure out if it was a joke. It wasn't.

    This is one of the reasons why stuff like us pawning our trash off to thrid world countries is going on, people in America have no clue what the impact of their behaviors and decisions on the rest of the world are, because many have no memory that the rest of the world really exists, at least apart from the commercials.

    It is truly frightening. I mean there is a lot of talk about how you know, high tech stuff is not allowed in our landfills, so people go around thinking, well cool. They just dont realize it was all slapped on a barge with a small check attached and given to someone else to deal with.

    Now wheres the remote..?
  • by angst_ridden_hipster (23104) on Monday February 25, 2002 @03:50PM (#3066459) Homepage Journal
    Not so very many years ago (~10), I was traveling around a country usually derided as "Third World."

    One day, in a major city, I was walking near the river, and came across a small road where dozens of older men were squatting with old circuit boards and soldering irons. They would unsolder resisters, capacitors, etc, and place them into bins according to the kind of component.

    A few streets further down, I came across another group of old men. These guys were pulling apart what looked like damaged automobile transmissions. One set of guys unscrewed, decoupled, and removed pieces, one set of guys cleaned the grease off of them, one set of guys sorted the parts (gears, synchros, etc) according to their size and level of damage.

    It really got me thinking. Here in the States, you don't even think of repairing broken consumer electronic stuff -- it's cheaper to get a new one, and it'll probably have more features. There, the labor costs are virtually nil in comparison to the cost of the materials.

    It made me think that there was a valuable process at work. Our garbage was recycled, and it actually benefits someone. Now, it is clear that this is an artifact of an unfair, unjust system. Obviously, fixing the overall system would be better. But within the context of the way things currently are, it's a reasonably good thing.

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