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Australia Television Hardware Technology

What Happens to Australia's E-Waste 78

Posted by timothy
from the as-long-as-you-keep-it-down-under dept.
lukehopewell1 writes "Aussies recycle several million tonnes of computers, TVs, mobile phones and other e-waste every year, with the number set to skyrocket over the next decade. ZDNet Australia takes an extended look into what happens to your devices when you're done with them. Take a peek inside the e-waste recycling process and find out what happens to your tech when it goes off to the wreckers."
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What Happens to Australia's E-Waste

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  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Monday September 20, 2010 @02:37AM (#33632966)

    It's not "e-waste" - it's regular old waste (aka garbage), just like old cars, dead light bulbs, and anything else that's discarded in the physical world.

    As annoying as putting an "e" in front of everything already is, at least there's usually some degree of logic to it - it's all about the difference between a physical item or an electronically transmitted item. If your internet service provider sends you a paper bill though the postal service, it's not an "e-bill" just because it's tangentially related to the internet. It's only an e-bill if it's sent to you electronically. And "e-waste" would be waste in the electronic realm - maybe your e-mail trash would qualify, or old out-of-date web pages that are sitting there, forgotten and unlinked.

  • Article Format (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fluffeh (1273756) on Monday September 20, 2010 @02:41AM (#33632976)
    Has that website always been so terrible with the way it formats an article? That looks like the sort of format that a retarded project manager signs off because it "looks flash!" even though it is as useful as an encyclopedia for toe-jam.
  • Honest? (Score:5, Informative)

    by cappp (1822388) on Monday September 20, 2010 @02:46AM (#33633000)
    I wonder how honest that article is considering the manner in which the rest of us [nytimes.com] get rid of our electronic waste

    International agreements and European regulations have made a dent in the export of old electronics to China, but loopholes - and sometimes bribes - allow many to skirt the requirements. And only a sliver of the electronics sold gets returned to manufacturers such as Dell and Hewlett Packard for safe recycling. Upward of 90 percent ends up in dumps that observe no environmental standards, where shredders, open fires, acid baths and broilers are used to recover gold, silver, copper and other valuable metals while spewing toxic fumes and runoff into the skies and rivers.

    Accurate figures about the shady and unregulated trade are hard to come by. However, experts agree that it is overwhelmingly a problem of the developing world. They estimate that 70 percent of the 20 million to 50 million tons of electronic waste produced globally each year is dumped in China, with most of the rest going to India and African nations.

    According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it is 10 times cheaper to export e-waste than to dispose of it at home.

    There's a pretty awesome photo-essay following the process over on Time [time.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 2010 @03:36AM (#33633110)

    It's not "e-waste" - it's regular old waste (aka garbage), just like old cars, dead light bulbs, and anything else that's discarded in the physical world.

    I have mod points but I hope to remedy your ignorance instead.
    If you ever got to your local landfill, you'll find they have a section just for electronic equipment, because it gets handled differently than "regular old waste (aka garbage)"

    Unlike "regular old waste" e-waste has lots of heavy metals and various organic compounds like PCBs & PCDs (collectively mutagens/terogens/carcinogens). Instead of being disposed of properly, these electronic items get shipped to Asia or Africa where they contaminate the water &/or pollute the air.

  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Monday September 20, 2010 @04:01AM (#33633188) Homepage

    I love how you frame this - they are victims, helpless in their fate, and we are the evil people doing them harm. "Pawned off on"...LOL. Scrap is a big business in nations like China, and waste is bought by the ton and shipped in. After the bill of lading is received by the buyer, there is absolutely nothing any Westerner can do to affect what happens next. I realize it makes good press to read the service tag off a junked Dell and say it came from Mamie Jenkins of Flyover Territory, USA, and it's therefore her fault that workers are being exposed to PCBs. Misleading and serving a personal agenda instead of reporting the facts, but that's where the press is these days. How about a little opprobrium for the unethical people who make the decision to recycle electronics in an unsafe manner? Oh no, we can't have that. "Victim" by definition means "no responsibility" so if it was their fault in any way, they would no longer be Holy Victims. Another very disturbing aspect of this framing is that because people aren't Westerners, then they by definition can make no decisions. They're too stupid, only we are the smart people who can take responsibility! Racist to the extreme, but then try creating cognitive dissonance in your typical PC drone...you won't get far.

    It's also extremely Western-centric. Only we make e-waste! Ever pause to think about the fact that developing nations are creating huge amounts of waste themselves? China is the second-largest consumer of PCs in the world. Adam Minter of Shanghai Scrap [shanghaiscrap.com] makes a good point:

    When China and other countries make a concerted, well-funded effort to do something about the problem, that, too, demands coverage. Put differently, after nearly a decade of wall-to-wall coverage of everything wrong with China's e-waste problem, how can the foreign media and activist community ignore what it is finally doing right - and doing right on a massive scale?

    Put differently, after nearly a decade of wall-to-wall coverage of everything wrong with China's e-waste problem, how can the foreign media and activist community ignore what it is finally doing right - and doing right on a massive scale? As longtime readers know, I'm no China apologist. This e-scrap program has problems. But it is a massive e-recycling program, nonetheless, and yet it has never - not once in its two month life - been reported by a mainstream (not industry trade) foreign news outlet despite the fact - over the last decade - mainstream foreign media outlets have done thousands of stories about the problem of e-waste. More damning, neither the Basel Action Network, which devotes itself to confronting the "unsustainable dumping of the world's toxic waste and pollution on our global village's poorest residents," nor Greenpeace, which actively solicits donations beide photos of south China's e-scrap recycling zones, has many any effort to mention China's progress on their respective websites (or, for that matter, recent progress on the same issue in Brazil). Why?

    What's the breakthrough new recycling program in China he's talking about? You won't hear about it in the Western media because it is an inconvenient truth. It doesn't Fit The Narrative. And The Narrative is always that we are bad and they are victims.

  • by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:14AM (#33634328)

    Unlike "regular old waste" e-waste has lots of heavy metals and various organic compounds like PCBs & PCDs (collectively mutagens/terogens/carcinogens). Instead of being disposed of properly, these electronic items get shipped to Asia or Africa where they contaminate the water &/or pollute the air.

    Huh. In my day we just called it hazardous waste - we weren't smart enough to have these high tech names for it.

  • Wait, did you just say it's China's fault that LA has shitty air quality?

    There are days when there's more Chinese pollution in LA than there is Los Angeleno pollution. Look it up, me laddo. People like to cry about the CARB's supposedly draconian control over emissions in California but you cannot argue with results. But as long as we export pollution (as a nation) then we will still be creating it somewhere.

  • by rhook (943951) on Monday September 20, 2010 @05:47PM (#33642210)

    The program is a scam and does not pay for recycling of waste, the whole point of it was to setup more government agencies so that state union workers could have more jobs. This is why the money for the program goes the the general fund, to pay state workers. Just one more example of why this state is in the hole thanks to our incompetent legislature. Notice how this program is also considered to be a "high risk" for fraud, I wouldn't expect any less from this state.

    http://www.pacificresearch.org/publications/californias-e-waste-waste [pacificresearch.org]

    "Using data from the last six-years, Dr. Ballon found that under EWRA:

            * Recycling a single electronic item requires 12 distinct transactions across three separate agencies.
            * Expenses have grown nearly three times faster than revenue from 2004-2008.
            * Yearly payments now exceed $150 million.
            * The California Department of Finance has identified the program as a “high risk for fraudulent activities.”

    “Under the current system, recycling a piece of electronic waste depends on a complex maze of interactions with little accountability and loads of costs,” Dr. Ballon said. According to the study, EWRA contains no provisions to restrain rising fees and places this burden on consumers and taxpayers."

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