E-Waste Exports

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Overview of the illicit trade in electronic waste

Overview of the illicit trade in electronic waste

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  • 1. urban mines and toxic towers: the illicit trade in e-waste
    eboni bledsoe
  • 2. Background
    Electronics is the fastest growing manufacturing industry
    In America alone, there are over 200 million computers, 200 million TVs, and 150 million+ cell phones
  • 3. What is e-waste?
    Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)
    “A waste category consisting of any broken or unwanted electrical or electronic devices, regardless of whether an appliance is still functional or not.” (Oswald and Reller)
    Any obsolete appliance with a plug or battery
  • 4. History of the e-waste trade
    In the 1990s, governments in EU, Japan, and some U.S. states instituted e-waste recycling systems. However, the capacity to deal with the waste was unavailable.
    As a result, they began to export the waste to developing countries with poor environmental and labor protection.
    e-Waste is expensive to recycle in developed countries
    the cost of glass-to-glass recycling of computer monitors in the US is ten times more than in China.
    Now, demand for e-waste has grown in Asia
    $75 million industry
    Extract Au, Fe, Ni during the recycling process for re-sale (“urban mines”)
  • 5. Source: UNDP
  • 6. So… what’s the problem?
    Difficult to manage due to variety of products that qualify as e-waste, complex material composition, and low collection and recycling rates
    e-Waste contains a lot of hazardous materials (selenium, arsenic, lead, chromium, etc)
    “toxic towers”
    Air pollution when materials are burned or smelted
    Ground and surface contaminants
    Pregnancies 6x more likely to end in miscarriage
    7 out of 10 kids have too much lead in their blood
    Highest level of CA-causing dioxins in the world
    Human rights issues
    Developing countries as “dumpsites” for industrialized countries (poverty or poison?)
    Child involvement
  • 7. Who are the perpetrators?
    Use large cargo ships to carry the containers of e-waste from developed countries to the developing world.
    They are marked as second-hand electronics to be sold to people in developing countries with limited access to technology.
    Of course, many of these items are non-functioning.
    Waste disposal companies
    Legitimate companies may be involved
    Some organized crime groups
  • 8. Trade Routes
  • 9.
  • 10.
  • 11.
  • 12. Recommendations
    Improve awareness along with recycling campaigns (only 18% is recycled)
    Certify recycling companies
    e-Steward (50 certified thus far)
    Enact a federal law
    U.S. should ratify the Basel Convention
    State laws are too fragmented
  • 13. States with e-Waste Laws
    Source: ElectronicsTakeback.com
  • 14. References
    CBS News. 60 Minutes: The Wasteland. 30 August 2009. 30 April 2011 <http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=5274959n&tag=contentBody;storyMediaBox>.
    Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. "Municipal Guidance for Compliance with Connecticut’s E-Waste Recycling Law." 22 February 2011. Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. 4 May 2011 <http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?A=2714&Q=412262>.
    Greenpeace. "Toxic Tech: The Dangerous Chemicals in Electronic Products." Greenpeace. 30 April 2011 <http://www.greenpeace.org/international/PageFiles/24478/toxic-tech-chemicals-in-elec.pdf>.
    "Health Risks of Recycling e-Waste." Perspectives in Public Health (2010): 245.
    Huo, Xia, et al. "Elevated Blood Lead Levels of Children in Guiyu, an Electronic Waste Recycling Town in China." Environmental Health Perspectives (2007): 1113-1117.
    Interpol. "Electronic Waste and Organized Crime -- Assessing the Links." Trends in Organized Crime (2009): 352-378.
    Oswald, Irina and Armin Reller. "E-Waste: A Story of Trashing, Trading, and Valuable Resources." GAIA (2011): 41-47.
    Peters, Joey. "Regulators, Recyclers and Retailers Build 'Urban Mining' Industry." The New York Times 22 April 2011.
    Schmidt, Charles W. "Unfair Trade: e-Waste in Africa." Economic Health Perspectives (2006): A232.
    United Nations Environment Programme. Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. 5 May 2011 <http://www.basel.int/>.
    —. "Urgent Need to Prepare Developing Countries for Surge in E-Wastes." 22 February 2010. United Nations Environment Programme Web site. 30 April 2011 <http://hqweb.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=612&ArticleID=6471&l=en&t=long>.
    United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Transnational Trafficking and the Rule of Law in West Africa. Threat Assessment. Vienna: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2009.
    United States Environmental Protection Agency. "Statistics on the Management of Used and End-of-Life Electronics." 2 December 2010. Wastes - Resource Conservation - Common Wastes & Materials - eCycling . 29 April 2011 <http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/ecycling/manage.htm>.