E-waste recycling by poverty-stricken people in Ghana, India,
once in a while someone upsets our comfortable existence by pointing out inconvenient
realities like the problem of what happens to our electronics devices after the
manufacturers convince us that we need the latest version of their wonder gadget.
Unlike regular household recyclables like glass jars and cardboard cereal boxes,
electronic devices contain a lot of valuable material that makes it profitable for
reclamation if the work can be performed somewhere nobody really cares about the
human costs of doing so. In China, India, Ghana, and many other "developing" countries,
poor souls earn an existence by disassembling and performing crude processing of
the components to separate heavy metals like gold, silver, lead, cadmium, beryllium,
mercury, and others. For their efforts they sell their booty at a pauper's wage.
After removing high value individual components like CPUs and RAM, as in these
videos the rest is tossed into a fire to burn away the non-metals. If it is hot
enough, the metals melt and drip onto a collection pan below. Wire is stripped of
its insulation to yield only the copper or aluminum by burning off the plastic or
rubber sheathing. The fumes from insulation often is toxic. Imagine inhaling that
crap all day, every day. The level of pollutants leeching into the ground water
supply and into the air are severe. From young to old, everyone participates.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency masks the truth about what really happens
to your exported
e-waste by providing a sanitized version of the process. To wit:
"How much e-waste is exported? The information available regarding the amount of
used and scrap electronics exported for reuse or recycling is limited. To date,
we have only examined export of CRTs."
The government knows about every phone call and credit card purchase you make
- utilities, gasoline, food, entertainment, clothing, donations. They track your
movement via cellphones, Internet usage, and auto navigation systems. The Fed nowadays
inserts itself into every facet of your life and yet it does not know where any
type of e-waste other than CRTs - a vanishing problem - ends up? It obviously does
not have jurisdiction over other countries' policies, but it can restrict export.
With as Hitlerian as the EPA is toward U.S. citizens and companies, the only logical
explanation is that the bureaucrats are getting kickback from dealers to not conduct
official studies and thereby have "plausible deniability."
Of course if it were not for the existing system, prices would increase significantly.
The world's economies would suffer profoundly if the electronics revolution were
to be hindered by eliminating the existing disposition methods. Don't think this
is just a U.S. problem; all countries participate to some extent. The "greenest"
countries merely have a more stringent recycling program for collecting discarded
materials, not necessarily guaranteeing that these destructive methods are not the
end stage of the recycling. What to do? Darned if I know. Heck, even with the amount
of resources spent on educating people about the health hazards of smoking cigarettes
we still have new smokers taking their first puffs on a daily basis.
It is a hard call between personal freedom and government mandate. The problem
is that there is no such thing as a benevolent government that looks out for the
welfare of the population. Evil lurks in the heart of women
(just being non-sexist here), so there will always
be a willingness to sacrifice some group for the sake of a preferred result. Socialism
and Communism, regardless of the initial good intentions, has always resulted in
mass murder and discrimination. There is no Utopia on Earth. It is a sad reality.
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