Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses Hardware

Digital Waste Worth More Than Gold, Copper Ore 302

Posted by kdawson
from the but-then-there's-the-cadmium dept.
tcd004 writes "Imagine sheer mountains of discarded Pentium IIIs, tractor trailers overflowing with discarded wall warts. Photojournalist Natalie Behring visited Guiyu, China and documented the world's biggest digital dump where, for $2 per day, the locals sort, disassemble, and pulverize hundreds of tons of e-waste. The payoff is huge: computer waste contains 17 times more gold than gold ore, 40 times more copper than copper ore. But the detritus also leaches chemicals and metals into local water supplies."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Digital Waste Worth More Than Gold, Copper Ore

Comments Filter:
  • by tcd004 (134130) * on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:49AM (#19205523) Homepage
    anyone who can dismantle supertankers [foreignpolicy.com] with their bare hands deserves some respect.
  • by value_added (719364) on Monday May 21, 2007 @02:10AM (#19205637)
    anyone who can dismantle supertankers with their bare hands deserves some respect.

    Not a Chinese story, but an Indian one. ;-) IIRC, there was PBS/Frontline type of special not too long on the subject. The supertanker dismantling was featured, but so was a program run by an Indian scientist of some sort that involved the disassembly and salvage of computers and computer parts. It was interesting to note how large and well run the operation was. The owner, keenly aware of both the monetary value and the environmental hazards of the work, was sympathetic to the workers but made it clear that despite the nature of the work and the few dollars per day they earned, his employees would have no work whatsoever. I guess happiness is where you find it.
  • Re:Good for them (Score:3, Informative)

    by speculatrix (678524) on Monday May 21, 2007 @02:21AM (#19205721)
    take a look at The Undercover Economist [amazon.co.uk] where he discusses the sweat shops in the Philippines and other developing nations; for many people it truly is a decision between working in awful conditions vs starving (or taking even worse work, such as in the sex trade), and that usually western-run sweat shops are actually much better than local ones and drive up wages and improve working conditions by offering choice, and therefore as the competition for workers increases they get treated better.
  • by wwmedia (950346) on Monday May 21, 2007 @02:29AM (#19205763)
  • by Proto23 (931154) on Monday May 21, 2007 @03:10AM (#19205901)
    Another communist post. The article says they earn $2-$4 per day that means $730-$1460 per year. With the average Chinese salary being between $300 (rural) - $700 (city), I say it's a pretty decent job which you can see by the clothes they wear on the pictures. Sure it is toxic but so are many of China's jobs. As were ours 100 years ago.
  • by NeuroManson (214835) on Monday May 21, 2007 @03:51AM (#19206073) Homepage
    With all the people who'll be dumping their old analog sets, this is where it'll all go (the wire wraps alone would be highly desirable).
  • by zaguar (881743) on Monday May 21, 2007 @04:50AM (#19206373)
    Futurama Quote:

    Bender: Ahhh, what an awful dream. Ones and zeroes everywhere... and I thought I saw a two.
    Fry: Don't worry, Bender: there's no such thing as two.

  • by HappyEngineer (888000) on Monday May 21, 2007 @04:51AM (#19206375) Homepage
    There are several definitions of "ton". One of those definitions is that a ton is exactly 2000 lbs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ton [wikipedia.org]
  • by Xiph (723935) on Monday May 21, 2007 @06:27AM (#19206853)
    Actually, the term girlfriend (as in more than just friendly with) is "novia", "amiga" is a friend that happens to be a girl.
    Of course, this is slashdot, so i guess parent is right..
  • by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Monday May 21, 2007 @08:19AM (#19207665) Journal
    To present the other side:

    1) Foreign multinationals typically have nothing to do with living standards in developing countries, which were like that long before they ever got involved. Trying to manipulate an entire government, just so you can move your factories there is just not proftiable because it creates an immense free rider problem: all of your competitors can then get the cheap labor without paying your costs. I would agree with your hypothesis in places where one company is given a sort of monopoly on setting up factories, but there aren't many of them.

    2) The open field system was not sustainable. Population growth alone would have increased the load on public lands to the point of worthlessness. Property rights in that land had to become well-defined at some point or another. To the extent that it was an injustice, it was an injustice because those dispossessed of their traditional rights were not compensated. However, this would put them in the same position of the parasites you decry.

    3) Even if landed farmers wouldn't want to work for pennies, that doens't explain artisans, who wouldn't be affected by enclosures. Now, I can understand why wealthy factory owners would want to drive down wages *before investing in factories*, but it strains credibility to claim that they FIRST built the factories, knowing they couldn't staff them, and THEN demanded (slow-enacting) legal changes that would finally make them profitable. The reason the factories rendered home-based artisanship unprofitable was because operating a power loom is (literally) child's play. And let's not forget the role of Carson's beloved guilds in preventing people from selling cheaper cloth.
  • by highonlife (942559) on Monday May 21, 2007 @08:40AM (#19207929)
    Uhhhh....Bangladesh is not India.
    it is a seperate country.
  • by Dr Reducto (665121) on Monday May 21, 2007 @10:50AM (#19209371) Journal
    The best part about fairtrade is that supermarkets and other outlets for goods have learned that fairtrade and organic products are good at procuring price-insensitive consumers from whom they can extract awesome profits. For example, Safeway may be able to buy a pound of fairtrade coffee for 5% more, but theyll charge a way higher premium, and the average consumer justifies the premium in their mind, whereas the profit goes straight to the supermarket
  • by dreddnott (555950) <dreddnott@yahoo.com> on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:42PM (#19210647) Homepage
    How do I searched web? Come on, this isn't 4chan, is it?

    I went to bed right after posting my previous post so you were tragically left in the care of another Anonymous Coward, but that doesn't really bother me.

    A gaylord is, yes, a large cardboard box designed to take up one pallet. The cardboard sides are about an inch thick which makes them very tough and quite reusable even when minimum-wage demanufacturing crews throw hundreds of hard drives or power supplies into them all day long. Infrastructure would sometimes cut out part of the side to make unloading the incoming material onto pallets for logging and sorting easier. A little bit more civilised, anyways, than what I saw in the photo essay.
  • by dreddnott (555950) <dreddnott@yahoo.com> on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:48PM (#19210747) Homepage
    Dear, dear pedantic clownboat:

    I was referring to a short ton, or what we here in the primitive Thirteen Colonies deign to refer to as simply "ton". I assumed that you would be exposed to at least one more of the many types of tons than your very own long ton, and I even included the lbs conversion to clarify. It might interest you to know than both the long ton and the short ton are 20cwt, and that the cwt's weight in pounds is dependent on which ton you're referring to.

    Although I'm not the biggest supporter of the metric system I at least recognise the logic in a hundredweight that actually weighs one hundred pounds.
  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:56PM (#19210893) Journal
    >Within my lifetime, copper is going to head towards being VERY valuable.

    In my neighborhood, in suburban Denver, if a house looks abandoned for more than about two weeks, people break in to strip out the copper. Abandoned buildings that are due to be demolished always have big "NO COPPER" or "COPPER ALREADY GONE" spraypainted across the front. And for a Darwin Award, a guy here got electrocuted a couple months back because he tried to strip the copper out of a running powerline transformer. When the police responded to the call, he was dead... and the copper was gone.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 21, 2007 @03:35PM (#19212895)
    1) Foreign multinationals typically have nothing to do with living standards in developing countries, which were like that long before they ever got involved. Trying to manipulate an entire government, just so you can move your factories there is just not proftiable because it creates an immense free rider problem: all of your competitors can then get the cheap labor without paying your costs. I would agree with your hypothesis in places where one company is given a sort of monopoly on setting up factories, but there aren't many of them.

    In the modern era (long after such entities as The East India Company) the pressures to "modernize" an economy are frequently exerted through external bodies such as the WTO. This garners the benefits of a captive labor market for various multinationals without the whole 'free-rider' problem bothering anyone much. It's quite nice for the world economy from a numbers standpoint, it just sucks ass if you're the one who gets to be 'modernized.'

    2) The open field system was not sustainable. Population growth alone would have increased the load on public lands to the point of worthlessness.

    You're assuming things not in evidence. Population growth and industrialization happened concurrently, and since the 'population bomb' scares of the 70's, we've gained a lot of evidence that overpopulation tends to correct itself unless the overarching socio-economic structures are broken at a fundamental level.

    Property rights in that land had to become well-defined at some point or another. To the extent that it was an injustice, it was an injustice because those dispossessed of their traditional rights were not compensated. However, this would put them in the same position of the parasites you decry.

    How so? Having land is not evil in itself -- it's arrogating a monopoly on land to yourself and/or your social class. Remember I'm a red anarchist. I decry property, not possession.

    3) Even if landed farmers wouldn't want to work for pennies, that doens't explain artisans, who wouldn't be affected by enclosures.

    Artisans were driven into the modern economy mostly by secondary effects, though there were economic restructuring acts which had a direct impact. Prior to this era, barter was the most common means of informal trade on the free market, but with the loss of private lands and such, the barter economy vanishes. The artisan who might have bartered with his neighbour for the wood of a couple trees that were on his neighbour's land may now instead have to seek materials from the new owners of the forests and fields -- and be charged exorbitant prices due to a small purchase lot, lack of a pre-existing contract, being Jewish on a Wednesday, etc.
    Then there's the whole matter of new rules and legislation "for the public good" which may require expensive licensing or specific manufacturing procedures before you're allowed to sell goods. ("To protect the customer from inferior mechandise!" or in plain english: "to guarantee the market for the wealthiest and most politically powerful makers!")

    Now, I can understand why wealthy factory owners would want to drive down wages *before investing in factories*, but it strains credibility to claim that they FIRST built the factories, knowing they couldn't staff them, and THEN demanded (slow-enacting) legal changes that would finally make them profitable.

    What, you've never heard of anyone rushing to market without considering the difficulties of scaling a business model indefinitely? MSNBC, seeing the success of Fox News, has been trying and failing to cash in on the market for Fox News channels for a few years now. (You'd think they'd wise up.)
    Early factory owners, in letters to newspapers and journals of the day, openly decried the laziness of the general populace. Seems many of them built factories only to find them understaffed after a few months. The available labor (at that price) was quickly

System going down in 5 minutes.

Working...