Friday, October 06, 2006

Computer Recycling: Myths and Movements

In response to Zippity Doh Dah dumpster destinations for computers, I will report on the state of computer recycling in a later blog entry. Suffice it to say that, yes, I do support recycling computer hardware, but the current state of the art leaves very much to be desired. It's mostly a fiction. Few parts of computers are recyclable. Taking a computer to a recycling center doesn't prevent the bulk of it from ending up in a landfill. Most computer recycling today is more "feel good" than "do good."

Loaded with toxic materials and hard-to-recycle plastics; all this modernity has it's symmetric sinister shadow.

The problem didn't begin with computers. Radios, televisions, fax machines, cell phones, answering infinitum. The problem with computer recycling is exacerbated by the mind-boggling rate of obsolescence and the enormous volume, orders of magnitude above other sources. One particularly egregious abuse, and attendant denial, has been the exporting of computer junk to Asia and Africa. Rather unceremoniously dumped into open pits, workers, water supplies, and the air, are abused with toxins.

More on this later, but for now I'll leave you with these poignant images:

Laborer heating aqua regia (nitric and hydrochloric acids) a mixture that dissolves gold. Without respiratory protection workers inhale acid fumes, chlorine, and sulfur dioxide gas as they swirl computer chips removed from circuit boards in acid to collect tiny amounts of gold. The sludge from the process is dumped directly into a river. Guiyu, China. © Basel Action Network 2006.

Children standing in front of smoldering electronic waste dump near the Alaba market in Lagos, Nigeria. Burned electronic waste produced carcinogenic and highly toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins, and heavy metal emissions. © Basel Action Network 2006.

BAN investigator Clement Lam taking a soil sample along a river where circuit boards were treated with acid and burned openly. Dumping of massive amounts of imported computer waste occurs along the riverways. Guiyu, China. © Basel Action Network 2006.

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