Electronics recycled 'in most horrific way'

Most Americans think they're helping the earth when they recycle their old computers, televisions and cell phones. But chances are they're contributing to a global trade in electronic trash that endangers workers and pollutes the environment overseas. While there are no precise figures, activists estimate that 50 to 80 percent of the 300,000 to 400,000 tons of electronics collected for recycling in the U.S. each year ends up overseas. Workers in countries such as China, India and Nigeria then use hammers, gas burners and their bare hands to extract metals, glass and other recyclables, exposing themselves and the environment to a cocktail of toxic chemicals.

"It is being recycled, but it's being recycled in the most horrific way you can imagine," said Jim Puckett of the Basel Action Network, the Seattle-based environmental group that tipped off Hong Kong authorities. "We're preserving our own environment, but contaminating the rest of the world." The gear most likely to be shipped abroad is collected at free recycling drives, often held each April around Earth Day, recycling industry officials say. The sponsors -- chiefly companies, schools, cities and counties -- often hire the cheapest firms and do not ask enough questions about what becomes of the discarded equipment, the officials say.

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22 Comments

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so when dell asks you if you want to recycle your old pc and plant a tree, does this also mean the tree is going to be planted on a paper farm and propmtly cut down and mulched?

... and yet, dumbya & those holier-than-thou american are blaming these countries for their poor environmental records, when they are cleaning after america's garbage.

wat to go, america. no wonder you have fewer & fewer friends.

I'm not standing up for the US or the 'recyclers' here, but the thing is, when people recycle they do mean to help the environment, it's just that what actually happens doesn't - but they don't know that, do they?

wctaiwan

Hey, Im innocent on this one, I dont recycle.

J/K, Its made very easy to recycle here in California(South Bay Area/Silicon Valley). We have the regular garbage pickups and are given these sweet large rolling bins for recyclables..makes it no hassle, altho it sounds like a friggin thunder storm every Monday night as everyone rolls those suckers to their curb.. We have annual special pickups for everything and anything, and an annual electronics pickup.

Oh great, now these Intellitext Vibrantmedia ads have sound? Thats where I draw the line..sorry off topic, but I just about jumped out of my seat...this is one of the few sites leave them on, but that is just obnoxius

yeah i always heard stuff like this happened a while back :(

they need to make it better/safer conditions for this sort of stuff.

but as usual, greed overrules peoples health. cause my guess is the companys in the USA once it gets out of the country they dont give a damn what happens after that as long as they get there profits etc.

What kind of comment is that, or are you trolling?

Where do you see "whining" in the article? This study was done by a third party.

Sometimes Neowin comments are really underwhelming. :-p

Is it the fault of the person recycling whatever device that it ends up being handled in an unsafe way?
Nice backpeddling, by the way, by that company in Tenessee which is owned by a Chinese company to say that they thought they were importing used computers and monitors. What is a monitor? A cathode ray tube, right? Not much different than a TV. Anyone find it odd that they don't print the name of the Chinese company that owns that US company, Fortune Sky USA?

On the other hand, wasn't the stuff these things are made of found in the ground anyways? So why not just bury it along some earthquake subduction zone so that it gets pulled back into the core and recycled naturally and put back where it came from?

Is it the fault of the person recycling whatever device that it ends up being handled in an unsafe way?

No, but the article isn't blaming those. It's a heads up on what's happening. Hopefully it'll be a step in raising a discussion on the topic and will improve the working conditions in the long term.

another example on how screwed people are believing everything is done for their own good. It's for everyones good that it needs to be working, and it has never been.