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This discussion has been archived.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 nmoog (701216) on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:35AM (#19205433) Homepage Journal
    1s and 0s as far as the eye can see!
  • by nmoog (701216) on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:39AM (#19205463) Homepage Journal
    If you say that it's environmentally irresponsibility to throw away computer equipment, your girlfriend can't get mad that you've got a cluster of Amiga2000s making your house look like a digital dump.
  • Good for them (Score:4, Insightful)

    by unkaggregate (855265) on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:47AM (#19205519) Homepage
    Finding a good use for old parts. They're better than most people I know who throw away a whole computer just because the latest software won't run on it. And if they can alleviate any toxic seepage into the soils doing so even better.

    It's kind of sad though that environmental laws here, even though they mean well, ultimately make it too costly for us to recycle PCs here compared to China.
    • Re:Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

      by demon driver (1046738) on Monday May 21, 2007 @02:13AM (#19205661) Journal
      It's not so much environmental laws, it's the low wages which generate manual jobs in countries like China, where, by the way, unemployment is an even greater problem than in the western world, and so is the pressure on people to get any jobs there are, even if it's going to ruin their health and shorten their lives drastically.

      And regarding both environmental and social standards it would be rather short-sighted to further lower our western standards only to be more competitive to countries which are even more exploitative towards both environment and populace. Instead, efforts should go in the direction of installing world-wide minimum standards in both regards...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by speculatrix (678524)
        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.
        • Is that you can help people and make a bundle of money at the same time.

          Instead of "investing" your money in a bank account at 1% below the rate of inflation, buy some unit trusts (funds in the US I think) which invest in the developing world. (It's good practice to diversify anyway) You'll get a 10-20% return and you'll be pushing money into these developing economies, increasing employment and ultimately improving working conditions.

           
        • Re:Good for them (Score:5, Interesting)

          by dave_boo (1089337) on Monday May 21, 2007 @04:30AM (#19206255)
          So another person that's wanting to apply their morality on someone else. Sex work is one of the oldest professions. If you'd have a girlfriend, you know that you have to pay. Same thing if you visit a hooker. How many slashdot geeks don't have a girlfriend because they're living in mommy's basement? All woman want security. If they can't provide for it themself, they want to make sure their mate can. Those that practice prostitution, especially in the South East Asian part of our world are just more open about it.

          Take for instance my inlaws. Starting with my wife's parents. They are from up country, near Nakhon Sawan, and have, for the area, a successful life. They are farmer, raise cattle, and manufacture wooden goods such as chairs, tables, and doors. Now, even with all this income, due to the economic enviroment they're in, it's not enough. So their two daughters went to Bangkok to find work. I met my wife working in a 7-11, where about 5000 THB($143) a month. Her sister got a job working in a metal factory. She's only making 6000 THB($172) a month. Now, if you figure that rent will cost you around 3000 THB($86) a month (that includes utilities--but don't be expecting to run the air con or have more than a single room and forget about hot water), you're left with 3000 THB($86). Even if you sent NO money home, that leaves you with 100 Bhat($3) a day. Granted, you can take on roomates, but with the aforementioned living conditions, how many can you realistically accomodate? Let's say you take on 1 roomate. That lowers you monthly expenses for the room to 1500 bhat($43), leaving you with 4500 THB($129). So you're now looking at 150 THB($4) a day. Still not much, but if you could live on 100 THB($3) a day, you can send home 1500 THB($43) a month.

          Now, they have 2 younger brothers. Both are in school, but they have to pay. The older one's school is 6000 THB($172), and the younger is 3000 THB($86). The family is very much into making this sacrifice because they don't wish for the boys to live the same life that they've been subjected to. So, just for making the payments, the family needs to come up with 9000 THB($257) every month. This doesn't cover room and board for the older one either. Add in costs raised from just living, you can see that money is always tight. The fact that farming is a seasonal income does absolutely nothing to improve their situation. I've been trying to get them to become more reliant on the furniture making portion of their life, possibly paying workers to man their fields, but they're stubborn old people. Add in the constant bill paying, house upkeep, taxes (government has to get their share!).

          I've taken over the responsibilty of paying for their educations. This has been a huge financial boon for the family. I was truly appalled at the teaching conditions in their old shool. It was practically rote learning, which I hate with a passion. If you can't teach someone to learn on their own, they aren't learning.

          But I digress. Going back to the prostitution business. A girl can work in a bar and make anywhere from 500 THB(14) to 3000 THB($86) a night. Obviously, the more they sling their "goods", the more they make. Not only that, some even end up with sponsors (which I never understood) who pay for them not to continue working. Quite a few of those with sponsors continue working in the bars, so not only do they have a steady income from some foreign sponsor, but continue to make money on an almost daily basis going with customers. Do they need to do this. Obviously not. Does it make more money for family. Assuredly. I wouldn't expect someone who is not of Asian origin to fully understand the ties between family (I'm not Asian, so I can't understand it fully, but I respect it), but the duty that people feel for taking care of their family is real. Everyone takes jobs they wouldn't necessarily agree with, but make more money for them.

          The culture also doesn't stigmatise prostitution like most Western one
          • Ok, so, lets look at this as purely a supply/demand situation. If being a sex worker is all that great, how come the price is so high? Surely, there'd be so much supply that the earnings would be no different from being in some other retail work or waitressing? Why do people choose to work long hours in a factory instead of a few hours in a brothel?
            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by dave_boo (1089337)
              For the exact reason you listed. Demand. Foreigners come here to partake of the trade. I should have qualified my post (I typed for a long time and was too lazy to go back an preview it) by saying those are the earnings of those who service foreigners. Those who work the locals make less. The favourite customers are Japanese. Thai's refer to them as the 3'ers. 3", 3 minutes, 3000 bhat. Some people do attach some stigma too it. The fear of AIDS, unwated pregnancy, etc. is also a deterrant. And a lo
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by demon driver (1046738)

            So another person that's wanting to apply their morality on someone else. Sex work is one of the oldest professions

            Your indifference to one of the world's biggest humanitary problems does not make it better. You're clearly not seeing that even your own words indicate that many women who live below the standards of those you were talking about come to prostitution only as a last resort, while they'd never even think about it under economically secure conditions. And, exceptions notwithstanding, prostitution has always been that way, in any place on the globe. It may well be, though, that in regions where the "normal" ex

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ElleyKitten (715519)

            If you'd have a girlfriend, you know that you have to pay.

            Bullshit. I've spent more on boyfriends than they have me. Sex shouldn't be about money, and the faster society gets over that concept the better things will be. Anyways, your wife's family sucks. The girls have to get crap jobs, but the boys get to go to school? And the girls have to send money home to pay for their schooling when they can barely make by themselves? Maybe if the people there found it just as important to send the girls to sc

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by demon driver (1046738)
          No wonder believers in a "free market" like to draw such "conclusions". But talking about world-wide social minimum standards does of course not mean minimum wages without minimum social security, while you're implying it would simply mean abolishing sweat shops implying ex-workers starving to death.

          Trying to describe "western-run sweat-shops" as the great new saviour for third-world countries, just because their exploitation is slightly less brutal than that of "local ones" (I won't take that as a proven r
          • Trying to describe "western-run sweat-shops" as the great new saviour for third-world countries

            I didn't way they were a good thing, merely that before people condemned them they should consider the facts.

            Back on topic a bit: many people seem unaware that just as there's a European wide RoHS directive, so there's one in China too which is more stringent and posing problems for European exporters.

      • Re:Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2@@@earthshod...co...uk> on Monday May 21, 2007 @03:13AM (#19205915)

        Instead, efforts should go in the direction of installing world-wide minimum standards in both regards...
        How about a law demanding that goods may not be imported, if they were manufactured under conditions that would not be acceptable in the destination country?
        • Re:Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mobby_6kl (668092) on Monday May 21, 2007 @04:00AM (#19206121)
          > How about a law demanding that goods may not be imported, if they were manufactured under conditions that would not be acceptable in the destination country?

          How about a law that would ban US imports in France (and other european countries) because the poor American workers have to work for more than 35 hours a week?
          • Maybe, but you could also impose tariffs. Certainly impose them to a balancing degree, and possibly to a punitive degree.

            I see no reason to let them profit because American's are on the whole too lazy to bother with the well being of overseas workers.
            • Re:Good for them (Score:5, Interesting)

              by King_TJ (85913) on Monday May 21, 2007 @09:13AM (#19208257) Journal
              I tend to agree about tariffs being a viable option to help "level the playing field". But "Americans are, on the whole, too lazy to bother with the well being of overseas workers"??

              I fail to see how "laziness" has ANYTHING to do with the discussion. It doesn't seem to me like it's America's responsibility to ensure the well being of overseas workers that don't work for our own companies. America seems like it is always called upon/expected to step in whenever there's a global issue. (Anything from cries for food or monetary assistance when a nation encounters a large disaster, to sending in troops to assist in matters which don't directly affect us.) Then, we're just as often criticized for "meddling" where we "don't belong".

              The only aspect of this we should directly be concerned with in America is the financial one. (EG. Does importing from nations that refuse to uphold standards of living comparable to ours hurt OUR economy in the long-run? If yes, then we need to take actions that help fix it.) Otherwise, for all I care, China, with their poor stance on human rights and environmental issues, can wallow in their own pollution and filth.
          • by tcopeland (32225)
            > because the poor American workers have to work for more than 35 hours a week?

            This reminds me of a quote by a Communist worker from the excellent book Wild Swans [amazon.com]:

            "How can you even think about such things [in this context, asking a girl out on a date] while the capitalists in America are living in an abyss of misery?"

            This was around the times of the hideous (and Mao-imposed) famines in the Great Leap Forward.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Colin Smith (2679)

        Instead, efforts should go in the direction of installing world-wide minimum standards in both regards...
        What're you? 10 years old? Tell you what, lets make full employment compulsory while we're at it so that everyone in the world has a job and make the minimum wage $100/hour so that nobody in the world is poor. It would be just as successful.

         
        • What do you wanna do? Stick your head in the sand and pretend the world is perfect?
          • by Colin Smith (2679)

            What do you wanna do? Stick your head in the sand and pretend the world is perfect?
            No, what I do is I put my money where my mouth is and actually invest in the developing world.

             
      • unemployment is an even greater problem than in the western world
        Depends on what you mean by the 'western world'. if you mean the United States, we have a less than 5% unemployment rate, which means we are actually experiencing a labor shortage. (http://www.bls.gov/ 4.5% in April)

        Instead, efforts should go in the direction of installing world-wide minimum standards in both regards...
        Enforceable by whom?

        Also, who are we to tell third world nations how to live? If it means that citizens can earn enough money
  • 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.
    • Sounds like some weird superpower or mutant ability.

      But poor joke aside, that's amazing - I had no idea they broke apart ships like that
    • 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.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 21, 2007 @04:44AM (#19206343)
        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 [if this job was not available]

          Yeah, that's the usual platitude in defense of sweatshops. That it's the "best alternative of a bad lot."

          Thing is, the people who use this line usually don't mention why the other choices are so few and so bad. It's due to economic policy and the pressure of foreign multinationals to "modernize" the economy of third world nations, and it's nothing new.
          Back in England there was a thing called 'The Enclosure of the Commons.' This was a period when the people of England had their self-subsistence systematically taken away from them by force of law. New rules took away rights to previously public land and put restrictions on personal gardening on small plots, so people who previously grew their own food or traded with their neighbors were suddenly forced to buy at the markets, which required money, which meant getting a job, probably at a factory. It was frequently justified at the time by letters written by wealthy industrialists (who, in a completely unrelated fact, were having a hard time getting a self-sufficient people of artisans, craftsmen, and farmers to come in and apply for jobs in factories for pennies a week) claiming that leisure-time was bad for people and would lead the commoners to crime and wickedness and perhaps even revolutionary politics. (Gasp!)
          Similar things have happened and are happening all over the world. People have their traditional way of life destroyed, their self-sufficiency ripped away from them, and in the end, are given the 'free choice' of hard labor in a sweatshop or dying of starvation. ...and we're supposed to applaud that?

          There's a good post on Kevin Carson's Mutualist blog on the whole 'Sweatshops Ain't So Bad!' argument over here. [blogspot.com] No, I'm not affiliated, actually I'm more of a red anarchist sort than a mutualist, but damned if he isn't one of the smartest people writing on the internet.
        • >>> "people who use this line usually don't mention why the other choices are so few and so bad. It's due to economic policy and the pressure of foreign multinationals to "modernize" the economy of third world nations"

          This is why the Fairtrade movement is so awesome. It puts the power in the hands of the consumer (where it always has been really) ... don't want the blood of child slaves in your chocolate? Well buy chocolate with the fairtrade logo (from a reputable source that's not likely to be ju
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Dr Reducto (665121)
            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
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by UbuntuDupe (970646) *
          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 monop
      • by evilviper (135110)

        Not a Chinese story, but an Indian one. ;-) IIRC, there was PBS/Frontline type of special not too long on the subject.

        You probably mean 60 Minutes... "The Shipbreakers" by Michael Gavshon aired on 2006/Nov/05.

        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.

        That, however, was not in the program, and I don't remember it anything quite like it, so it's unlikely whatever you're reme

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by highonlife (942559)
        Uhhhh....Bangladesh is not India.
        it is a seperate country.
    • by tcopeland (32225)
      > anyone who can dismantle supertankers with their bare hands

      Looks like even they have their standards [blogs.com], though.

      I remember seeing these container ships cruise by - our Coast Guard ship would be going north at 12-13 kts and they'd be going south at 40 kts... lots of mass and lots of relative velocity there. Even with a CPA of a mile they were pretty impressive.
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:49AM (#19205529)
    ... the world's biggest digital dump ...

    Bender, is that you?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Hey! Melting down those broken robots is just wrong! Especially when they're sucking up to me like that!
  • by BooleanLobster (1077727) on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:58AM (#19205577) Homepage
    As far as I know, the value of the metals inside electronic waste is only a couple dollars per ton of waste. Some electronic waste recycling companies have found that it is much more profitable to resell things that still work (at roughly 90% discounts), and extract the working components from things that don't.
    • by dreddnott (555950) <dreddnott@yahoo.com> on Monday May 21, 2007 @02:20AM (#19205705) Homepage
      I used to work for an electronics recycling company, trueCycle [truecycle.com].

      Not the most scrupulous incorporation in the high desert, but we processed a LOT.

      A good day would have us processing 10 tons (20,000 pounds) of various electronics, most of it selling to final-stage processors for $0.10 to somewhere $1.00 per pound, depending on which gaylord (motherboards, transformers, glass, CPUs, HDDs, etc) and of course the fluctuations in the volatile commodities market.

      The biggest cash cow, of course, was leaded CRT glass - thanks to SB20 and SB50, our processing of CRT glass was subsidised and we received a flat rate of $0.48 per pound on just that, smashed or not smashed. This was lucrative due to the commonality of monitors and the density of the glass, as well as the fact that at any given time we had 10 guys with clawhammers and pneumatic screwdrivers absolutely tearing everything up that I let them get their hands on.

      I worked as Quality Assurance, assessing pallets as they came in and rescuing the good stuff, as well as miscellaneous server and network administration work. You know, the usual stuff when your department knows more about computers than the entire rest of the company, which happened to be too cheap for a dedicated IT staff and commensurate payroll. While I did indeed fix up more than a few computers for eBay and local buyers, the 90% discount and the general poor condition of incoming electronics as well as poor working conditions, chronic understaffing, and a tragic lack of space made resurrecting computers a very small portion of the revenue stream.

      Selling components was a lot more successful, and I always argued for doing this with my coworkers and supervisors. We would sell hundreds of thoroughly-tested HDDs, video cards, RAM sticks, and CPUs of all types at a time. It amazed me at the time (2005-2006) to see how many people were still interested in 10GB drives, 64MB PC100 sticks, and GeForce2 MX cards.

      My favourite part of the job, however, was finding and rescuing antique/vintage computing equipment [photobucket.com]. The contract with Dreamworks was also pretty exciting, although 99% of it ended up as unrecognisable scrap. I found myself face to face with an SGI Iris 4D and an even larger system in bad shape that I could not identify, as well as several battered workstations (one labeled "FOONLY" in obvious homage).
  • Dang... (Score:3, Funny)

    by EraseEraseMe (167638) on Monday May 21, 2007 @02:00AM (#19205591)
    ...computer waste contains 17 times more gold than gold ore, 40 times more copper than copper ore...

    I'm lucky if I get 4 Thorium ore from one mine :( I think I'm going to have to level up recycling.
  • by 2Bits (167227) on Monday May 21, 2007 @02:08AM (#19205625)
    This is a sad situation where rich countries just dump their toxic wastes to the poor countries. It's a quick solution, and does not cause much (if any?) local political discussion. Out of sight, out of mind.

    Unfortunately, this is a very irresponsible way to dispose off the toxic waste. Sure, the rich can claim that it is actually beneficial to the local economy in the poor countries. As the article mentioned, some dump site employs as many as 100,000 people. And sure, it's a global economy, meaning that anything can be "exported".

    But, have we ever considered the consequences to the planet as a whole? After all, this planet belongs to everyone, and we should take up the responsibility to protect it better. The rich countries have the proper means and resources to handle the wastes better than the poor countries. But instead, we all chose the easy way out: we just let the poor poison the planet. It's currently poisoning China's, India's and Nigeria's backyard, so that America, Europe, Japan etc, can have their own little clean and green lawn.

    Guess what happens when they run out of dumping ground? I visited a site a couple of years ago. I happened to ask what they would do in this case. The foreman said:"Easy, there are plenty of fishermen out of job, as the fish stock is running out. They would be happy to help us dump into the ocean." Ha, same attitude as to how the rich get rid off their wastes.

    Good to know that we are all alike, rich or poor. Eventually, it will come to bite us all back from behind. Happy dumping, everyone.

    • by will_die (586523) on Monday May 21, 2007 @02:16AM (#19205687) Homepage
      People are not dumping this stuff on theses countries, thoses countries are paying for all this scrap.
      The larger of the recycling places actually have people going all around the world tring to purchase large quantities.
      The question is do the richer country act as big brother and say they will not sell the items to theses poorer countries?
    • "After all, this planet belongs to everyone,"

      Speak for yourself. In NO WAY does the planet "belong to everyone", if we really believed that our social structure would not put profits over people, we would have much less homelessness and poverty and the Walton's daughter could never afford to spend 68,000,000 on a painting.
    • This is a sad situation where rich countries just dump their toxic wastes to the poor countries. It's a quick solution, and does not cause much (if any?) local political discussion. Out of sight, out of mind.

      Unfortunately, this is a very irresponsible way to dispose off the toxic waste. Sure, the rich can claim that it is actually beneficial to the local economy in the poor countries. As the article mentioned, some dump site employs as many as 100,000 people. And sure, it's a global economy, meaning that

  • ...are the files I delete. This is just electronics.
  • by wwmedia (950346) on Monday May 21, 2007 @02:29AM (#19205763)
  • Old story (Score:2, Troll)

    by SnarfQuest (469614)
    Isn't this story from several years back?

    Or is this just the annual repeat of a "look how evil the Unites States is" story?
    • by gnud (934243)
      Well, if it's from some years back, it's a 'have you done anything about it yet you slob'-story =)
  • Stupidity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Monday May 21, 2007 @02:57AM (#19205861) Homepage
    This article makes no sense whatsoever.

    Even if it is true that computer-trash contains 17 times the gold, compared to gold-ore, it does not follow that it is "worth more", that would be true only if getting the raw-material, handling it and extracting the valuable metals cost precisely the same. Which ain't likely.

    You also don't find all that many million-ton piles of computer-scrap just sitting around.

    • by timmarhy (659436)
      1. it's much cheaper then ore since you don't need to dig it out of the ground. 2. there ARE million ton piles of the stuff. 3. please hit alt+F4 now.
      • by Eivind (15695)
        You don't need to dig it out of the ground. Instead you need to collect it from all over the country/planet, because originally it comes in small, widely dispersed packages. You then need to deal with the mix of chemicals in there observing safety-standards and health-regulations.

        If you think that collecting 100 tons of computer-waste (aproximately 10.000 - 30.000 computers!) in one spot is cheaper than digging out 20 cubic meter of rock, well, then that's your problem.

        The metal-parts in a typical compu

        • by Eivind (15695)
          Ok. Screw that. Messed up the number of zeroes. As a consequence, all the numbers in here are crap. My bad.
  • by Proto23 (931154)
    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 gwoodrow (753388)
      Are you (and all of your other fellow apologists in this thread) really THAT callous? Even if those workers made that maximum of $4 per day, I still make more in one month than they do in a year. And I'm a 26 year old who graduated with a BA in ENGLISH. Grades were so-so. You honestly don't think there's something wrong with the world when inequities like that exist solely based on situations we have no say in? Birth place, ethnicity, et cetera? Inequities that are further exascerbated by utterly soul
      • by Stiletto (12066)
        Are you (and all of your other fellow apologists in this thread) really THAT callous? Even if those workers made that maximum of $4 per day, I still make more in one month than they do in a year.

        Please do some googling for the terms "real exchange rate" "big mac index" and "cost of living" and get back to us. I don't care that I make 15x what a Chinese worker makes because my home and food cost 15x as much as well.

        It's like those late-night "charity" commercials: OMFG!! So-and-so only makes A DOLLAR A DAY
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Monday May 21, 2007 @03:10AM (#19205905) Journal
    Since 1965, I have been a recyler (cub scouts and boy scouts). Generally, it is paper, glass, and metal. It always struck me as the right thing to do. But the other day it dawned on me that it might be a mistake to do some of this. In particular for the metals. Paper, plastics, and glass will decay if they are not recycled, so it makes good sense to do them right away. But metals are a different issue. It struck me that we might wish to consider simply putting them in a dump for future use. The reason is that somewhere down the road, a number of metals will be very expensive. One example is copper. A number of mines will be used up (much sooner rather than later). While China is about to have 1-2 major copper mines come on-line (in Tibet, they have found a number of resources which is why they actually built the Tibetan railroad), in general, copper has been massively extracted. Within my lifetime, copper is going to head towards being VERY valuable. It seems that it would benefit the countries to garbage dump any waste and then work on creating GOOD extraction approaches. The idea of paying to ship our electronic "waste" to other countries has to be one of the most ludicrous actions that the west takes.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Opportunist (166417)
      You are aware that you're talking about people who think the "future" is what they write in their quarter-year report or how they get reelected in up to 4 years, yes?
    • by evilviper (135110)

      Paper, plastics, and glass will decay if they are not recycled, so it makes good sense to do them right away. But metals are a different issue.

      Plastic won't decay for the next millennium. Glass, to my knowledge, doesn't really decay either, and if it does, it just gets ground up to sand again. Paper certainly decays, but it may be less resource-intensive to plant and cut down trees than to recycle used paper...

      Metals, however, certainly do decay. Rust, oxidization, etc., etc.

      It struck me that we might wi

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by smellsofbikes (890263)
      >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 p
  • 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 nanosquid (1074949) on Monday May 21, 2007 @03:53AM (#19206089)
    I suspect that gold mining itself does a lot more damage than this kind of recycling. And what are the alternatives? Dump it into a dump and not recycle it? That will leach even more toxic metals into the ground. Or stop producing electronics altogether?

    I think it's good that this stuff is being recycled at all. We should now focus on:

    -- reducing the amount of heavy metals we put into electronics

    -- improving the safety and working conditions of the people doing the recycling

    -- redesigning electronics to reduce overall waste and make parts easier to recycle

    -- making sure that more electronics reach those countries in working order (open hardware standards and increasing compatibility can help with that)
  • Did anyone else read the title and think it was about World of Warcraft?
  • The payoff? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 1u3hr (530656) on Monday May 21, 2007 @04:55AM (#19206393)
    According to the submitter "The payoff is huge: computer waste contains 17 times more gold than gold ore ..."

    What a load of bullshit. If the payoff was "huge", why would companies pay to have it taken away to China? Gold ore is much easier to process in bulk from fairly homogeneous rock than trying to extract it from a pile of metal, plastic and glass components. Gold ore is anything from 0.5 ppm up, so this "17 times" is a meaningless figure. At best, it means a few grammes of gold per tonne of hardware. How many hundreds of manhours would it take to break it down and separate out the tiny scrapings of gold from electrical contacts? Copper is more easily scavenged from wiring and power supplies.

    • by eck011219 (851729)
      The payoff is huge on a Chinese scale -- elsewhere in these posts, someone states that the average yearly salary in China is between $300 and $700. I don't know if that's accurate or not, but even if it's half what it should be, they're still doing pretty well considering the number of people vying for work.

      And yes, these materials are more easily scavenged from other items -- but I bet that's already being done. This is a relatively new option for Chinese workers, and they're willing to take the health ris
  • The images seem to be 404ing, with Mirrordot only giving the image on the first page. Mirror for the rest if them, anyone?
  • by oDDmON oUT (231200) on Monday May 21, 2007 @06:32AM (#19206879)
    I've said this for years now, that we will be mining old dumps of all sorts for refined materials which will have become too rare or too costly to extract conventionally.
  • you actually read the green screen FBI warning, it's not your ordinary copyright notice :)
    • how on earth did I managed to get this attached to this story, not the right one :o/
      oh for even a short window of opportunity delete function.

Life would be so much easier if we could just look at the source code. -- Dave Olson

Working...