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Help eliminate E-waste May 4, 2009

Posted by tackettmedia in sustainability.
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“The existence of waste is an indicator of inefficiency in the human economy.” – Natural Strategies Group (www.naturalstrategies.com.au/waste)

I recently read this sentence whose message is so obvious, yet so obscure to many of us, that it created an AHA! Moment for me.
Imagine a perfect world where everything we produce is focused on sustainability. In such a world we would actually produce only as much as we need to live on.
Mostly, I am thinking about the developed world when contemplating overproduction and excessive consumerism that’s causing this overproduction. Consequently, we end up with too much waste. Regardless of how sophisticated and developed we think we are, we don’t know where to go with the things that have become useless to us.
Not that developing countries aren’t dealing with mountains of trash – I mean, it’s obvious if you go to Africa, for example, that they lack rules, regulations and laws. And if they have existing laws, they are often ignored and abused.
Take for example the law passed by countries of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) that aims to stop electronic waste, e-waste, being dumped in Africa and Asia; Consumers International, a watchdog group, has check up on the effectiveness of the law in West Africa and found mountains of old televisions and computers still arriving in the ports of Ghana and Nigeria from America and Europe.
These are our old television sets, which we proudly replaced with flat screens in the past few years, and it’s our old microwaves, our CD players, iPods, desk top computers, old lap tops, and also our cell phones, which thanks to our nice service providers are being exchanged for new ones every couple of years.
In return, waste collectors – often children – who burn our electronic trash suffer from respiratory and other illnesses associated with the burning of these materials. Their goal is to recover metals such as copper, zinc, gold and other toxic materials they can sell for their survival.
It’s an economic cycle, you may say, admitting that the nicer part is being the consumer on the front end rather than the seller on the back end.
Solutions should include proper disposal by consumers, manufacturers and governments. California has passed legislation in 2003 that establishes a funding system for the proper disposal of e-waste. The goal is to take electronic equipment apart into its components and then recycle the materials.
Even China has stepped up to the plate and has passed a law in 2009 to increase funding for safe electronic recycling facilities. The law also holds manufacturers, retailers, repair and consumer service providers, and recycling companies responsible for collecting and handling e-waste properly.
It’s a first step, although the definitions in the punitive section of the law are a little vague, and with ever increasing consumerism, I wonder whether China and other countries producing and selling electronics can ever manage to get a handle on proper recycling of e-waste without strict, punitive laws.
What I’ve learned growing up in Switzerland is that sometimes a stiff fine is the best way to teach a population. Switzerland now is one of the leading countries when it comes to recycling with approximately 75 percent of all recyclable materials being recycled. No wonder then, that the international treaty on hazardous waste disposal is called the Basel Convention (www.basel.int/).
But it took more than just laws to get Switzerland to this point. It’s a collective thinking and education that starts in early childhood that truly makes a difference. Growing up in Switzerland it was natural to sort out waste. Now, every little village has a recycling collection site, and if you look carefully, most every house has a compost pile.
If you think that Swiss people do all this without incentives, you’re wrong. Trash is being taxed by the bag, and they cost from $1.50 for a 35-liter bag to $4.60 for a 110-liter bag.
I believe the only way to truly educate people is through taxes and stiff fines. Or would you feel the need to change your cell phone every time your provider company offers you a new one, if you had to pay $500 in taxes or a fine of $5,000 for trashing it illegally?
What you can do: Learn about recycling and inform yourself how to go about it. If you get rid of old electronics, make sure you bring them to a waste collection site in your city that knows how to recycle them properly.

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Comments»

1. Suprita - June 4, 2009

Hey All,
Happy World Environment Day…

Recycling is the best policy in today’s world to get rid of the ever growing problem of e-waste. I know of a company Attero Recycling situated in NOIDA,India which is the 1st authorized e-waste end-2-end recycling company in India.


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