Cleaning up the E-Waste Recycling Industry. Source: Julie Ann Aelbrecht, Huffington Post, Jan 5 2016.
Upon opening a shipment of computers it had received through the International Children’s Fund (ICF), a Ghanaian school discovered the equipment sent was 15 years old. Most of the computers needed replacement parts, parts that weren’t available anymore. In the end, the school managed to get only a single computer working again.
While the ICF had good intentions, a fake charity had handed it a container of what was meant to be workable secondhand material that was actually closer to its end of life–that is, effectively waste. That unfortunate Ghanaian school is only one victim in a long chain of corruption, theft and organized crime that stretches from Brussels to Cape Town.
This is the global trade in electronic waste, or e-waste. It is estimated to be worth over $19 billion and leaves a trail of criminality behind it. The flow of discarded electronics follows a route where European countries turn a blind eye to theft and major companies bend and break recycling rules to get electronics to developing markets, where the waste disappears into dangerous ad hoc dumps. There, the waste is often dealt with by illegal recyclers in ways that are catastrophic to the environment and human health.
But while e-waste is a dirty business, some are trying to clean it up, mostly by bringing these informal recyclers slowly into the regulated recycling industry.
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