Enviros make a difference

Enviros make a difference

E-Garbage Seized by Chinese

Chinese customs officials seized 450 tons of junked computer parts and other electronic waste shipped illegally from the United States, an official said Wednesday.

Small Chinese companies, many of them in the southeast near Hong Kong, tear apart derelict computers and other electronic items to recover gold and other materials. Most workers have no protection from the toxic fumes released when parts are melted down. 

China launched its crackdown after environmentalists early this year called attention to health problems in the town of Guiyu, a recycling center near Hong Kong. Guiyu residents told a reporter who visited the town that children there suffered medical problems including breathing ailments and that there had been a surge in leukemia cases.

Exporting Harm: The High-tech trashing of Asia is the film that help make this happen.  It viewed at the Green Reel Film Festival last weekend, and is a powerful document.  The town of Guiyu is where thousands of peasants dissemble PCs – with no safety standards at all.  Much of the dissembly is unbelievably toxic – dunking computer parts in open vats of acid to leach out gold, burning cables in open air to get the copper, shaking used toner cartridges to get reusable toner powder (highly toxic), breaking monitor tubes (ditto), dumping the refuse near rivers.

The peasants have no clue this is dangerous because no one told them.  For the past five years, their well water has been undrinkable, so water needs to be trucked in from elsewhere.  Their dissembling of computers started six years ago.

Such dissembling of computers can not be done in the U.S. because there is no way to do it safely.  Plus, many municipalities are banning dumping computers in land fills because of concerns the toxic materials will leach into the water supply or soil.

Our PCs are way toxic, and no one knows what to do with obsolete ones – except dump them in other parts of the planet.