E-waste / Cyber Waste
"E-waste" and "cyber waste" describe the unwanted systems and components of our industry. Green businesses and facilities mitigate their e-waste impacts by repurposing and recycling equipment scheduled for replacement. But there is a hidden side to e-waste recylcing.
Manufactured Landscapes, a visually powerful film based on the work of photographer Edward Burtynsky, vividly portrays how much "re-cycled" e-waste ends up in third-world countries and exactly how it gets processed. Here are some excerpts from Burtynsky's web site:
It is estimated by the recycling industry that 80 per cent of the e-waste collected in North America for recycling goes offshore and out of that amount 90 per cent goes to China.
In China . . . workers use their hands and primitive tools to pick apart the junked computers and salvage precious components. In the process they expose themselves and their environment to toxic elements such as lead, mercury and cadmium.
In China many of the people involved in this process are farmers who stopped tilling their land in favor of the more lucrative e-waste recycling trade. The farmers earn about $1.50 US per day cooking circuit boards to remove components, sloshing corrosive acid solutions over removed chips and burning wires and other plastic-coated parts to liberate metals. These are routine operations conducted by workers of all ages and both genders with a minimum of occupational health protection or appropriate equipment.
Enterprises need to audit their recycling chain to understand exactly what is happening to their discarded equipment.