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Hardware Science

Growing Problems With Electronics Waste 207

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the good-foundations-for-neo-africa dept.
eldavojohn writes "The BBC is reporting that many countries are dumping their e-Waste in poorer African nations. From the article, 'The world's richest nations are dumping hazardous electronic waste on poor African countries, says the head of the UN's Environment Programme (Unep).' The problem with e-Waste (versus other wastes) is that the gases and chemicals that make up a lot of electronics are particularly harmful for the environment. I suppose nobody takes their computer, TV or Radio to the repair shop anymore since a new one is a fraction of that cost down at the local convenience store."
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Growing Problems With Electronics Waste

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  • repairs vs new (Score:5, Informative)

    by 56ker (566853) on Monday November 27, 2006 @07:51PM (#17009456) Homepage Journal
    nobody takes their computer, TV or Radio to the repair shop anymore since a new one is a fraction of that cost down at the local convenience store."

    Yep, case in point - I gave someone a quote of £175 to fix their laptop. They preferred instead to spend £339 on a new one. Even if the cost is lower for repairs people still prefer to buy new (which doesn't make much sense to me).
    • Re:repairs vs new (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mccalli (323026) on Monday November 27, 2006 @07:57PM (#17009526) Homepage
      I gave someone a quote of £175 to fix their laptop. They preferred instead to spend £339 on a new one. Even if the cost is lower for repairs people still prefer to buy new (which doesn't make much sense to me).

      £339 - £175 = £164. £164 for an upgraded laptop starts to sound ok, doesn't it. Now take broken'ish laptop and put on ebay and you reduce that £164 figure still further, depending on age and how broken it really is. Suddenly the choice is obvious - unless this laptop is a current model, you're as well geting rid and buying something more up to date.

      Cheers,
      Ian
      • by linhux (104645)
        Add to this the common Windows notion that a "fresh" and clean install is something nice -- you want to start over a little now and then to clean up your Windows installation of all the extra fat it has gained during use. Getting a new computer actually gives an excuse to start over with a fresh new Windows without having to go through the pain of first backing up data and then reinstalling (since you still have the old computer, you'll probably just copy the stuff over network once you've got the new one u
      • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
        £339 - £175 = £164. £164 for an upgraded laptop starts to sound ok, doesn't it.

        Except that you (IMHO) can't get a decent laptop for £339 (~$600). My sister bought a $550 Dell and it's overweight, has awful battery life, and has been problematic - screen not working right, pointer going apeshit, etc. And, yes, XP is a clean install, those are hardware problems.

        If you want a decent new laptop that's actually usable as a portable and reliable enough to be a business machine

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by drpimp (900837)
      The day will soon come. It already has happened cell phones. Enter disposable laptops. To bad disposable != eco friendly.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by user24 (854467)
        Laptops always were pretty much disposable; when was the last time you upgraded your laptop? It's too much hassle/cost/risk. We just deal with slow outdated laptops untill they're too slow and outdated, then we bin them or give them away. What's changed?

        I like your eco-friendly remark. There'll be a market for wooden laptops and hemp carry cases soon. (cue futurama references: wooden bender).
        • Re:repairs vs new (Score:5, Interesting)

          by scum-e-bag (211846) on Monday November 27, 2006 @10:16PM (#17010868) Homepage Journal
          when was the last time you upgraded your laptop?

          I've had mine for over two years now and I don't think I'll be upgrading until either the battery or the screen completely dies. It's a 1.5Ghz Pentium M with 2 gig of RAM. Linux/GNOME runs like a dream and the only time I need more speed is when I want to compile something... more of a FSB issue than anything else. This just means that I'll stick with pre-compiled binaries as opposed to a gentoo solution for the moment.

          We just deal with slow outdated laptops untill they're too slow and outdated, then we bin them or give them away. What's changed?

          Hardware has become cheaper. China has happened. Then there is Linux. Linux is now mature enough as a desktop environment. Very little extra bloat is needed for the Linux desktop... it only needs cleaning around the edges with a standardised interface. Historically the driving force behind increasing PC power usage has been bloatware (the old wintel alliance). Linux has a different business model to MS and is forcing MS to slow down its bloat process. If MS continues to force bloat, then it will open a door for Linux to be installed on smaller, cheaper, less powerful hardware, thus lowering the TCO for a Linux based network operating system.

          Personally, I think we are about to see a rapid decline in new PC hardware sales, moving instead towards notebook style PCs. DIY PCs are about to become a thing of the past. Vista is likely to be the last MS operating system that requires a generational hardware upgrade, the maturity of Vista as an operating system is astounding. It appears that the relationship between MS-OS-revisions and maturity is "Maturity = ln(revision number)", where the function ln is the natural logarithm. After the upgrade to Vista, the only need to upgrade further (other than aesthetics) will be to reduce power consumption with efficient hardware, which itself will take on an exponential relationship.

          The only place I still see bloat in the MS machine is in the active directory, and this isn't PC based, its network based...
          • by kabocox (199019)
            Personally, I think we are about to see a rapid decline in new PC hardware sales, moving instead towards notebook style PCs. DIY PCs are about to become a thing of the past. Vista is likely to be the last MS operating system that requires a generational hardware upgrade, the maturity of Vista as an operating system is astounding. It appears that the relationship between MS-OS-revisions and maturity is "Maturity = ln(revision number)", where the function ln is the natural logarithm. After the upgrade to Vist
            • I'm kinda mixed on the whole idea of bloat in MS.

              You must be young enough to not remember the minimum specs for win95... *shudder* :)

              I have no idea what little things Vista will include to increase uptime and make my life easier.

              eye candy
              • by kabocox (199019)
                I have no idea what little things Vista will include to increase uptime and make my life easier.
                eye candy


                That's actually what I thought the only benefit of WinXP Pro over Win2000 were. It turns out that there are real benefits to using WinXP Pro rather than Win2000 in a networked environment on hardware that can handle it. I predict that Vista will be really bashed as only eye candy by /. for about 3 months after its release and then some one will find out some pretty cool features that really make it worth
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        Yeah, I use laptops till they become outdated...I will try to find something for them....some I've put in various places around the house (kitchen, bathroom...etc) just for simple web access, but, when they fry out...toss them.

        I mean, until I'd seen a couple articles on /., the concept of doing anything with a laptop, or desktop and monitor other than tosssing out with the rest of the garbage out front to be picked up, never occured to me.

        And I've never really seen any 'program' for recycling them, nor an

      • by Fred_A (10934)
        Enter disposable laptops.
        Sony tried introducing disposable laptops. After a couple months, they just melt. Unfortunately the market didn't respond favourably.
        There's just no pleasing some people.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Qubit (100461)
      Buying new means starting over -- the keyboard is clean, nothing is broken, and you get to pick an new model, etc...
      You get a new warranty, and you (probably) get better system specs.

      Those are some pretty convincing arguments!

      As a result, I get a lot of older laptops this way. I fix them up and give them to friends or use them for little servers. Until a laptop is a commodity like a toaster, where the new model won't have that much to offer over the old model, people will buy a new computer instead of rep
      • by tsa (15680)
        Usually people throw out their toasters after twenty years or so, instead of three years. Besides, a toaster takes much less energy to make and operate than a laptop does. So toasters are more environmentally 'friendly' than laptops.
        • by ajs318 (655362)
          I have no toaster. I make toast under the grill. Over the years, I have come to appreciate that gas toast tastes noticeably nicer than electric toast (and methane gas toast tastes nicer than propane gas toast).

          Of course, if you use store-bought bread and/or artificial "I can't believe anybody thinks this tastes remotely like butter" spreads, you probably won't be able to appreciate the difference. Home-baked bread, toasted evenly on both sides under North Sea Gas and served at once with real dairy but
    • by Anonymous Coward
      So they bring their used laptop to you for a repair. You charge £175. As with virtually every other device and piece of machinery out there, it'll likely break down more frequently as it ages. Soon enough, they'll be paying you another £175 to repair it when some other part breaks. And finally something else will eventually go, perhaps costing another £175. So they've spent £525 repairing what is likely by now a slow, underperforming system.

      They'd be stupid not to spend £339 on
    • by pilgrim23 (716938)
      If every pre-used computer now stored in attic, garage, closet, or basement were added to the current junk pile, the world would have a REAL crisis. By holding on to our junk we help by keeping the problem non-localized. but that masks the real depth of the problem
      • if we could get everybody to take them to one place locally... then you'd have a serious amount of resources being recovered. There's some expensive stuff inside a PC... it's in too small of quantities in just 1 PC, but even 100 PCs it becomes profitable to recycle the components for the materials... monitors even more. I'm waiting for somebody to make an efficient "molecular disassembler" that can break down items.. particularly densely mixed resources like PC components and refine them efficiently to se
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CodeBuster (516420)
      They are looking at the problem from the standpoint of, "If I fix this now and it breaks again in six months then it will cost me another £175 to fix it or I could just get a new one with Windows New and Better Edition that will last for at least a couple of years, plus I will get all of the new whiz bang features (and more frequent flier miles on my credit card to boot)". This is how the average consumer is trained to think from a very early age and you can blame our public education system, the grea
      • by rwade (131726)
        This is in contrast to the generally more intelligent free thinkers, such as ourselves, who like to understand the subtleties and nuances of a decision or at least be able to reason logically on the fly, but we are the ones that the government is watching because who needs those trouble makers anyway?

        Tell me what your superiority over Joe Shmo has to do with buying electronics.

        ...people tend to fall back on their ingrained programming...and for most people that means the consumer program and not the hack

        • Tell me what your superiority over Joe Shmo has to do with buying electronics.

          The electronics buying scenario is merely an example of a larger problem that is becomming entrenched in our society and especially here in the United States. There are many other examples which can be substituted for this one without changing the essential point, but since the example in this case was electronics purchases I chose to use the one at hand rather than introducing a completely different instance and possibly obsc
    • HP recently asked me to extend my warrantee on a laptop whose warrantee is about to expire. The problem is that the price for a 3 year extension was $375 which is quite close (within $100) of the original price I paid for the laptop! I think I'd just backup my stuff regularly and replace the laptop with the current model that I can get for $450 or so if it does break.
    • I gave someone a quote of £175 to fix their laptop. They preferred instead to spend £339 on a new one. Even if the cost is lower for repairs people still prefer to buy new (which doesn't make much sense to me).

      I think the reason people prefer to just get a new one is they figure that once there is a problem, even after you fix it, there may be more, the 175 is a low estimate in their minds. Try giving people a GUARANTEE that your repair won't be greater than 175 and I'll bet you'll see more p

    • by tho 1234 (709100)
      While I agree that almost always true that its cheaper to buy a new product than to repair it (esp. for electronic gadgets, cell phones, and computers, but also increasingly true for large items like cars, appliences, etc), i find it funny how few people stop and think how absurd the whole situation is-

      you can either:

      a) Pay one person in a western country (where there may be 5% or more unemployment and a large majority or people doing dead-end service jobs) to spend 2-3 hours to take a device apart, figure
    • by mrmeval (662166)
      Laptops are one of the few items that don't get dumped. I see crap ones go for 40 or more on ebay.

      The other electronics trash may be a problem now but it will be gold for whoever owns it later, same for landfills.
  • Ironically (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Monday November 27, 2006 @07:52PM (#17009466) Journal
    Ironically, the EU regulation RoHS (which is intended to cut down on hazardous materials in electronics) is likely to make the waste problem worse - since it bans solder with lead in it. Lead free solder is quite inferior to leaded solder - it tends to be more brittle, and tin whiskers are more likely to form. This means electronics using lead-free solder will fail more frequently and earlier, and therefore need to be replaced more frequently, increasing the volume of waste - and probably more than negating the intended effect of RoHS in the first place.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by timmarhy (659436)
      rubbish i've done 1000's of hours of soldering with both lead and lead free solder, and so long as your using a quality flux and solder there is zero advantage of lead over tin aside from price, and frankly the less lead contamination in our living environment the better.
    • Re:Ironically (Score:4, Informative)

      by seanadams.com (463190) * on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:19AM (#17011806) Homepage
      Ironically, the EU regulation RoHS (which is intended to cut down on hazardous materials in electronics) is likely to make the waste problem worse - since it bans solder with lead in it. Lead free solder is quite inferior to leaded solder - it tends to be more brittle, and tin whiskers are more likely to form.

      Having been through the RoHS transition for my company's consumer products, I can tell you it is really not that bad.

      There were some pains - plastic in one connector that had very minor heat deformation issues, and tin whiskers in another connector, which were easily cleared with a blast of air. However, as soon as we pointed these out to the suppliers they were quickly fixed.

      There were also some delays getting new lead-free ICs and hexavalent-chromium-free screws, but nothing disastrous.

      Reliability in the field has been just as good with non-RoHS product.

      And as an added bonus, since it is far more cost effective to produce _only_ RoHS compliant products, our US shipments will also be lead-free.

      I suspect your experiences are not first-hand. I have yet to hear from anyone who is experiencing big problems with RoHS that can't be chalked up to simple bad planning.

      The RoHS requirements may have been a transitional PITA for many, but now that everyone had made the switch, it is really no more difficult to design and build than it was before. Maybe the solder costs a few cents more.
  • Bad news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sv-Manowar (772313) on Monday November 27, 2006 @07:55PM (#17009500) Homepage Journal
    It's somewhat ironic at a time when governments such as Britain's are pressuring their citizens to be ecologically responsible and do their part, when at the same time they are just taking their issues and hiding them 'under the carpet to say'. Especially when MEDC countries are pressuring the developing countries in order to lower their economical aspirations in order to be environmentally aware ("Meanwhile the British leader is likely to raise the issue of global warming, and what developing countries like India can do to help tackle it." at the BBC [bbc.co.uk]). Seems to me as when the developed world is pushing on one front in order to gain public support and more education towards global warming, behind the backs of this they are just doing the same as usual in order to get rid of problems that would require investment, something we should be ashamed of.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 27, 2006 @07:59PM (#17009548)
    Hello, my name is Robert Johnson and I have recently come to aquire 10,000,000 computers that I need to smuggle out of the country...
  • by Akaihiryuu (786040) on Monday November 27, 2006 @08:04PM (#17009624)
    I don't remember the last time I threw away anything electronic. I've still got a Vectrex from 1982 sitting in my basement (still works, tried it earlier this week), still have a working NES and Sega Master System. SNES, Genesis/CD/32X, and Saturn are still hooked up. My old computer (K6) is also still working...when I quit using it as my main system (when I got the Athlon-XP), the K6 got relegated to storage and various network tasks. Of course, this means my house (especially my room) is pretty badly cluttered, lots of stuff lying around...but that's not bad considering how much old electronic stuff I have.
    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday November 27, 2006 @08:14PM (#17009734) Homepage
      You do realize that most of the world isn't interested in starting an antique electronics museum. Besides, you're just procrastinating. Someday, someone will want to dump the stuff.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by GWBasic (900357)

        You do realize that most of the world isn't interested in starting an antique electronics museum. Besides, you're just procrastinating. Someday, someone will want to dump the stuff.

        A couple of weeks ago I helped a local antique computer museam [digibarn.com] put its exhibit in storage for the winter. Even the owner was trying to get rid of some parts; he offered me a 600lb component for a Cray power supply.

    • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Monday November 27, 2006 @08:23PM (#17009838)
      I don't remember the last time I threw away anything electronic.

      You're not married, are you?
    • Let me guess, you're single, right? No wife ever puts up with this. And to anyone that reckons their wofe does, they don't. They just say it's fine then do something horrible to your lunch.
      • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
        Let me guess, you're single, right? No wife ever puts up with this. And to anyone that reckons their wofe does, they don't. They just say it's fine then do something horrible to your lunch.

        Actually, he uses a crate in his basement among all the used electronics to store his ex-wives' bodies. He figures the police won't want to search through all of the toxic junk and cobwebs to find the truth...

        -b.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 27, 2006 @08:13PM (#17009714)
    By the time we've filled up Africa, things will have warmed up enough to provide us the whole new continent of Antarctica for dumping.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by argoff (142580) *
      The truth is that if you calculate it out, 35 square miles at 200 ft deep is more than enough to hold all the US trash for 1000 years. Considering that the surface area of the earth is several orders of magnitude larger, it doesn't take much to figure out that we don't have a trash problem but we do have a problem global bureauocrats who think they know how to manage our lives better than we do. The worst scam they push on people is the one about "toxic" cell phones. Bullshit, all the cell phones on the
      • by SQL Error (16383)
        Plus we leave our great-grandchildren a handy one-stop mining site for all sorts of valuable minerals.
      • Bullshit, all the cell phones on the planet could fit in 200 cubic feet of space, they are just trying to scam money from lucrative industries.
        Are you sure that all the cell phones in the world can fit inside a cube 2 meters on a side?
         
        • Hey probably meant (200 feet)^3, which would hold about two billion seven-cubic-inch cell phones. That's a small hill. You could probably find a vacant lot that could hold a pile that size in almost every city in the world.
      • Bullshit

        Speaking of which, yes, Penn & Teller did do an episode debunking the "landfill conspiracy". 2nd season, I think.

        Most problems are political, not practical.

      • all the cell phones on the planet could fit in 200 cubic feet of space

        Assuming the average cellphone is one cubic inch in size (I would say mine is close to 3 cu in and its not that big), then you can fit 1728 junk cellphones in one cubic foot or about 350 thousand in 200 cubic feet. I am pretty sure there are more phones than that in the city of Chicago, much less the whole planet. Accounting the total quantity and historic size of cellphones, even an estimate of one million cubic feet for the phones th
        • In the UK there is supposed to be more mobiles (cell phones) than people so that makes 60m+ just here. Many people have multiple phones, hence the numbers.
          • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
            Many people have multiple phones, hence the numbers.

            That's kind of dumb, if only because if it were I, I'd probably lose one of the extra phones quickly. Has anyone tried to address the problem by making a phone that takes the multiple (say 2 or 3) SIM cards? One for the employer's cell service, one for personal service. It's unlikely you'll be talking on both cells at once.

            -b.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by stonecypher (118140)
        Apparently you've never been to New Jersey, where there are many landfills several orders of magnitude larger than this. It's easy to get karma by saying "if you calculate it [out, sic]." However, pretending to run the numbers isn't good enough. If what you were saying was true, then one enterprising owner of strip-mined land could take up every refuse contract in the nation, and become an exceptionally rich individual overnight.

        New York City produces 12,000 tons of garbage per day [earth-policy.org]. If you honestly beli
        • a quick calculation [google.ca] shows that 25 square mile area 200 feet deep would provide enough space for 464.64 cubic feet of garbage per person in the US. This means that if on average we each sent just 1 cubic foot of garbage to the landfill every week (now this is an incredibly lowball estimate, but it makes the math easier) this landfill would be filled in less than 9 years. With a little more realistic numbers (which I can't be bothered to look up) it would be filled in a matter of months.

          So yeah, the GP is

          • Oops, the calculation linked above shows how much stuff we could throw out per year to make the GP's landfill last 1000 years: 0.46464 cubic feet per year. Anyway you look at it, he really didn't do the math.
  • E-Waste (Score:4, Funny)

    by timgradwell (981444) on Monday November 27, 2006 @08:13PM (#17009720)
    "The BBC is reporting that many countries are dumping their e-Waste in poorer African nations."

    I always wondered what happened to the spam emails after I deleted them. Now I finally know where they end up.

    • No no, the spam goes to Korea [wcco.com]. They eat it. Yum.
    • by megaditto (982598)
      As my mom used to say, 'Megaditto, always finish reading your spam messages: there are kids that can't read in Africa!'

      --
      I am going to hell for that one, ain't I?
  • Mandatory recycling (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Antony-Kyre (807195) on Monday November 27, 2006 @08:20PM (#17009800)
    Anyone have an opinion on mandatory recycling? I think it would be a good idea, with fines and fees imposed for throwing recyclable things into the trash, namely electronic items. However, to offset any harshness of the law, recycling must be made free, and by free, I mean paid for by taxes (as long as it's not a property tax, sales tax increase, or income tax increase).
    • How about deposits? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by HairyCanary (688865) on Monday November 27, 2006 @09:12PM (#17010282)
      Oregon pioneered the idea of bottle deposits. How about we extend the idea to electronics? 1% of the purchase price, with lower and upper caps.
      • How do you tell which electronics had a deposit paid on them?

        A form? A stamp on the device itself? I suspect documenting either would be cumbersome for the recycling authority you allude to. Ensuring that such documentation is available at the time of refund would probably fall on the consumer, who probably threw the fucking form out with the box it came in. The consumer's kid could peel off the stamp.

        However, the key issue is that fundemental difference between computers and disposable containers. There ar
    • There are only about 2 recycling points for computers in my entire province. The government promises to have a recycling program in place by 2007 Spring, but I'm not optimistic.

      Many people don't seem to yet realize that garbage collection costs a lot of money, and recycling saves them money in the end.
    • Why?

      When recycling makes economic sense, it happens without such laws. Some incredibly high percentage of aluminum cans, for example, are recycled, because the production of aluminum involves a lot of expensive electricity. It's far less expensive to just melt down already-produced aluminum and recast it, which is why even before 1991's Earth Day got a lot of hippies convinced that they could save the planet you could take your empty aluminum cans down to a recycling center and get *paid* for them. They
  • by tcd004 (134130) * on Monday November 27, 2006 @08:22PM (#17009818) Homepage
    It's not just e-waste. As this piece notes, the toxic byproducts of manufacturing are being dumped as raw materials too: The Global Village's Septic Tank [foreignpolicy.com]
  • Not just price... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kris_J (10111) * on Monday November 27, 2006 @08:39PM (#17010002) Journal
    "I suppose nobody takes their computer, TV or Radio to the repair shop anymore since a new one is a fraction of that cost down at the local convenience store."
    Or because you can't actually get them fixed. The insides of even a semi-modern TV are surface-mounted, machine-soldered ICs and small components, not servicable by most humans, particularly since many individual parts aren't available to repair companies. So, you have to buy an entire "module", only available as a "spare part" that costs roughly 75% of the price of the latest model.

    Companies should be forced to include, with your electronics purchase, two small parts likely to fail early.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by solevita (967690)
      For a long time I would have agreed with you completely, but since an example [makezine.com] of someone fixing their TV turned up on Make today, I'm not so sure.

      Yes, TVs and other consumer electrics may be getting more proprietary in their construction, but people are also less inclined to fix them, although examples exist that demonstrate that it is possible.

      I think you're in danger of harking back to some "good old day" that never existed whilst also ignoring the fact that most people these days don't want to fix a T
      • by Kris_J (10111) *

        I think you're in danger of harking back to some "good old day" that never existed whilst also ignoring the fact that most people these days don't want to fix a TV

        I think you're in danger of confusing someone repairing something themselves with taking it to a repairperson. I used to get TVs repaired at a local repair place, but any TV bought in the last decade is either impossible to repair (because there are no schematics available or no parts available) or so expensive to repair that it's literally che

    • by Renraku (518261)
      It'd just create more waste. 99% of the people would either not see them and throw them away with the box, or leave them to rot for all eternity in a drawer in the shed or guest room. A better idea is to have everything marked with a part number that you could just order or find out what it is and buy.
      • by Kris_J (10111) *
        Much as I had some difficulty knowing where both my xmas lights AND the spare bulbs for said xmas lights where at the same time, I did manage to simultaneously find them both just the other day and I was able to replace two dead bulbs. I'm sure a similar example can be observed in many households around this time every year. Better than just throwing them out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kabocox (199019)
      Or because you can't actually get them fixed. The insides of even a semi-modern TV are surface-mounted, machine-soldered ICs and small components, not servicable by most humans, particularly since many individual parts aren't available to repair companies. So, you have to buy an entire "module", only available as a "spare part" that costs roughly 75% of the price of the latest model.

      Companies should be forced to include, with your electronics purchase, two small parts likely to fail early.


      It's ironic, I act
  • by Super Dave Osbourne (688888) on Monday November 27, 2006 @08:40PM (#17010006)
    and seen countries come and go regarding taking it on the chin for the US consumer byproduct/waste. First it was indeed our own backyard landfills, then we got 'smart' and taxed heavy or disallowed it in the mid to late 90s. Then it went off to Mexico, in the form of used crap being sold to uneducated folks in Mexico for top dollar when the markets began to collapse in the 99-01 timeframe. Then it started to head off (monitors in particular) to China. Then they got wise, and also stopped allowing big electronic trash ships to dock at all and unload, basically causing a huge bottleneck at their ports and off the coasts. Now it is Africa, doesn't suprise me at all if next it is Antartica when folks realize what this stuff does to the ground waters. Its hilarious that folks are so shocked at this capitalism at its worst with monitors and heavy metals from electronic consumerism. Steve Jobs, you should be ashamed of yourself. :)
  • the gases...that make up a lot of electronics are particularly harmful for the environment

    Yet another good reason not to let out the magic smoke.
  • Often impractical (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DeathElk (883654) on Monday November 27, 2006 @09:19PM (#17010334)
    My early career involved traineeships at a few electronics repair shops whilst attaining a trade certificate. Even 15 years ago, it was becoming impractical to service many consumer electronics items, with the cost of spare parts being inflated by manufacturers to encourage purchase of new goods.

    A small repair shop must often gamble on which parts to purchase, and deal with incessant customer grumbling over repair costs. Here are some stories [siliconchip.com.au].

  • by Ant P. (974313) on Monday November 27, 2006 @09:19PM (#17010338) Homepage
    I get them from there :) I wipe the trashed windows xp partitions, stick Ubuntu on them and give them away free to relatives. They love it.
  • by patio11 (857072) on Monday November 27, 2006 @09:38PM (#17010508)
    When you don't have enough money to eat every day, the prospect that some point removed from your house has, egads, gasses and metals at it doesn't seem quite as frightening. The nations of Africa, like many before them, will start caring about environmentalism when they have a high enough standard of living for it to be a pressing concern. China is starting to get greener as their economy improves (note "greener": they're still dirty, but if you were there 15 years ago you would be amazed people could live in their cities), and many late industrializing countries (Japan, Taiwan, etc) have high levels of environmental consciousness (I hate that word, incidentally) after decades of less-than-Greenpeace-approved actions taken to bolster their economies.

    Incidentally, the other reason the whole "We'll take your junk if you pay us for it" works is that NIMBY-ites in rich Western democracies don't want the stuff anywhere near them, so they pay to have it dumped somewhere far out of sight. Then the same folks cluck-cluck about how we're exploiting the Third World.
  • by Proudrooster (580120) on Monday November 27, 2006 @10:14PM (#17010856) Homepage
    Just think about the impact MS Vista and Office-2007 are going to have on e-waste. If you want the new MS bloat code with the almost as good as MAC interface, then you are going to need (minimum) a 64-bit processor, liquid cooled video card, and 2GB of RAM. Africa needs to brace for the boat load of PIII's and low-end P4's about to show up.

    It's really sick that modern computers have such extreme processing power relative to 20-years ago, yet we must continue to upgrade.
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      It's really sick that modern computers have such extreme processing power relative to 20-years ago, yet we must continue to upgrade.

      Not only that. It's sick that most of this processing power is sucked up to run bloat, in order to make transparent or shiny windows, etc. How fast does a CPU need to be to act as an internet terminal, or run a word processor, etc? The only REALLY demanding applications are games (besides the very few specialist people who run demanding science or business
  • ..in rich nations...and costs very little in poor nations that manufacture them. That's the real reason why it's cheaper to buy a new one. Face it, globalization is basically a system invented by rich countries to replace colonialism and slavery. Ignoring the transfer of money, and just looking at the work and goods that people make and receive, the poor countries are basically slaves to the rich countries.

    The poor countries would be better off forming their own economic bloc and trading amongst themselv
  • by gelfling (6534) on Monday November 27, 2006 @11:15PM (#17011316) Homepage Journal
    Since the fucking tools in Redmond are shoving ever more bloated crap at us requiring us to replace our hardware ever more frequently why the hell don't governments charge Microsoft that recycling tax instead of pushing the problem down on the consumer who has no other choice. I for one am sick as shit listening to people tell me it's my problem.
    • No shit bro... stick it to da man! I remember back in fucking '91 when I emailed Linus asking him how to install his new 0.2 Linux operating system. That puppy fit on a floppy disk and it was FAST. These days you're lucky if that bloated piece of crap can get squeezed onto a CDROM since those tools in Open Source land have forced us to keep upgrading our computers. And I'm sick of these distros telling me it's my problem that their software runs like a dog circumnavigating the Martian equator after I in
  • by starseeker (141897) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @12:35AM (#17011896) Homepage
    The technology I think has been stabilizing, each new processor/component doesn't introduce the user visible performance leap its predecessor did. The changes are more incremental now, and older machines have longer lives before they are outpaced by the demands of software (and I have a feeling a lot of those demands aren't really necessary, but that's another issue). Rather than making cheap disposable boxes, I would advocate a return to engineering for durability, robustness, and future proofing (many older machines are built like tanks - I prefer that durable approach to computers personally. My IBM PS/2 keyboard is probably 20 years old, but still works like a champ. There is no excuse for keyboards that don't last - it is a solved problem and the evidence is out there.) Start to make a big deal about 5 or 10 year warranties on computers, and convince the public that they SHOULD be able to use this machine for that period of time. (First of course you must design and build a machine that is actually a reasonable machine to use for such a period, but I doubt that is an insurmountable obstacle - open hardware projects might help.)

    Vista's longevity has actually helped consumers I think, because it broke the whole "upgradeupgradeupgrade" mantra that had come before it and provided some real product stability. I doubt this was the original intent, but I'm glad it happened. Perhaps consumer expectations for stability and robustness can be increased, and we can start to engineer operating systems, standards, and APIs that are intended to be bulletproof and last for decades or even centuries.
  • India's e-recycling (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kensai7 (1005287)
    I've been reading a lot about India's growing role in the business of electronic scavenging and recycling. Seems that this Asian country with the enormous population and booming e-economy tries to find new uses from obsolete equipment. Read here: http://www.physorg.com/news67098899.html [physorg.com]
  • If you were digging a mine and hit a vein of old computers, wouldn't you think of it as good ore?

    Commercial silver and gold deposits are measured in ounces per ton. Commercial copper stays in production at 2% and companies seem to consider a find of 0.13% worth reporting. Plastics would be a problem but then you always have tailings from a mine. Now imagine that the ore doesn't require digging, and in fact people will deliver it to you and pay you to take it.
  • This is exactly why I sneak all my electronic bits into some company's dumpster, or break it apart to the point it is not obvious to the garbage guys and mix it with my coffee grounds and so on.

    That way, the poluting elements stay in landfills in 1st world countries where they can be somewhat dealt with. Who knows, maybe some day someone will figure out a way to dig that stuff up, process it and get a pile of various raw materials. They were put in the electronics at some point, so they are used....

    Seriou
  • Ever since I moved to Arizona, I've enjoyed the luxury of actual access to a local dump. I lived in a place where there was - so far as I know - no public access to landfills; you had to pay some licensed, mobbed up company to dump anything you wanted to.

    Here in Southern Arizona, I pay $9.00 to enter with a pickup truck-load of garbage.

    As you enter, to the left, there is a fairly postapocalyptic-looking pile where people can dump refrigerators, stoves, and other appliances - and only those things.

    There is

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