Friday, November 23, 2007

Not so green

Each April around Earth Day, numerous towns and cities throughtout the U S have recycling days. Most Americans who donate their old cell phones, computers and televisions probably believe that they are doing a good thing for the environment by recycling them.

Estimates by activists though state that between 50 to 80 percent of the 300,000 to 400,000 tons of electronics are shipped overseas. That wouldn't be such a problem, if those elctronics were actually being reused or recycled in a green manner. Unfortuantely though, reports state that much of it ends uip in China, Nigeria and India where workers use their bare hands, gas burners and hammers to extract the glass, metals and other recyclables. In doing so, both the workers and the environment are exposed to a mix of toxic chemicals.

Most of the sponsors of these collections go with the lowest bidder and don't ask questions as to what is done with the elctronics. All too often it seems, those "recyclers" sell off the working gear and dump the rest on exporters. Many of those exporters are also managing to skirt by import laws for the e-garbage by claiming that they are sending the scrap as working units to be used in poor countries.

One such company to have been caught doing that was Fortune Sky USA, a Cordova TN based subsidiary of a Chinese company. The customs officials in Hong Knog about two loads being imported and when the frieght was broken open, it was found to contain old televisions and monitors, not the used computers it was supposed to have. Reuse is said to be the new ticket to shipping e-garbage overseas and it may become an even larger problem as more states close their landfills to electronic garbage.

To help combat that, eight states have passed laws now that require companies to either take back their old electronics or make them more easily recylable. Companies such as Apple, HP and Dell now take back their old gear cost free with some having drop-off centers or requiring them to be mailed back.

As the amount of electronics and constant upgrades being offered flood the markets world-wide, e-garbage looks to be a large problem unless solutions are begun now to solve it.

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