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E-Waste Exports


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Overview of the illicit trade in electronic waste

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E-Waste Exports

  1. 1. urban mines and toxic towers: the illicit trade in e-waste<br />eboni bledsoe<br />
  2. 2. Background<br />Electronics is the fastest growing manufacturing industry<br />In America alone, there are over 200 million computers, 200 million TVs, and 150 million+ cell phones<br />
  3. 3. What is e-waste?<br />Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)<br />“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)<br />Any obsolete appliance with a plug or battery<br />
  4. 4. History of the e-waste trade<br />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.<br />As a result, they began to export the waste to developing countries with poor environmental and labor protection.<br />e-Waste is expensive to recycle in developed countries<br />the cost of glass-to-glass recycling of computer monitors in the US is ten times more than in China.<br />Now, demand for e-waste has grown in Asia<br />$75 million industry<br />Extract Au, Fe, Ni during the recycling process for re-sale (“urban mines”)<br />
  5. 5. Source: UNDP<br />
  6. 6. So… what’s the problem?<br />Difficult to manage due to variety of products that qualify as e-waste, complex material composition, and low collection and recycling rates<br />e-Waste contains a lot of hazardous materials (selenium, arsenic, lead, chromium, etc) <br />“toxic towers”<br />Air pollution when materials are burned or smelted<br />Ground and surface contaminants <br />Guiyu<br />Pregnancies 6x more likely to end in miscarriage<br />7 out of 10 kids have too much lead in their blood<br />Highest level of CA-causing dioxins in the world<br />Human rights issues<br />Developing countries as “dumpsites” for industrialized countries (poverty or poison?)<br />Child involvement<br />
  7. 7. Who are the perpetrators? <br />Use large cargo ships to carry the containers of e-waste from developed countries to the developing world. <br />They are marked as second-hand electronics to be sold to people in developing countries with limited access to technology. <br />Of course, many of these items are non-functioning. <br />Waste disposal companies<br />Legitimate companies may be involved<br />Some organized crime groups<br />
  8. 8. Trade Routes<br />
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  12. 12. Recommendations<br />Improve awareness along with recycling campaigns (only 18% is recycled)<br />Certify recycling companies<br />e-Steward (50 certified thus far)<br />Enact a federal law<br />U.S. should ratify the Basel Convention<br />State laws are too fragmented <br />
  13. 13. States with e-Waste Laws<br />Source:<br />
  14. 14. References<br />CBS News. 60 Minutes: The Wasteland. 30 August 2009. 30 April 2011 <;storyMediaBox>.<br />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 <>.<br />Greenpeace. "Toxic Tech: The Dangerous Chemicals in Electronic Products." Greenpeace. 30 April 2011 <>.<br />"Health Risks of Recycling e-Waste." Perspectives in Public Health (2010): 245.<br />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.<br />Interpol. "Electronic Waste and Organized Crime -- Assessing the Links." Trends in Organized Crime (2009): 352-378.<br />Oswald, Irina and Armin Reller. "E-Waste: A Story of Trashing, Trading, and Valuable Resources." GAIA (2011): 41-47.<br />Peters, Joey. "Regulators, Recyclers and Retailers Build 'Urban Mining' Industry." The New York Times 22 April 2011.<br />Schmidt, Charles W. "Unfair Trade: e-Waste in Africa." Economic Health Perspectives (2006): A232.<br />United Nations Environment Programme. Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. 5 May 2011 <>.<br />—. "Urgent Need to Prepare Developing Countries for Surge in E-Wastes." 22 February 2010. United Nations Environment Programme Web site. 30 April 2011 <>.<br />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.<br />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 <>.<br />