One place you don’t want your used electronics to wind up is in the media. 

We get asked all the time why we charge money to recycle computers and monitors and TVs, cell phones, Blackberries and other used electronics.  The reason we get asked this question is that there are a lot of “recyclers” out there who will take this stuff away for free, or even pay to take it off your hands.  Why, we are asked, does IRN charge to recycle electronics when other companies will do it for free.

There’s a simple answer:  If someone is “recycling” used electronics for free, they’re exporting containers filled with “e-waste” to China or the Third World.  Here’s a very small selection of recent media documenting how much e-waste is dumped from the U.S. to sweatshops and open burn pits in Africa and Asia, and naming some names who would rather not be named. 

There are hundreds more.  If you want to see things that are really sad and frightening, just Google images or web content for  “e-waste China” or “e-waste Africa”. 

You’ll see what it really means to “recycle” electronics for free.  It means whole cities and regions turned into wastelands of toxic smoke and ash and mountains of debris.  It means enormous costs in damage to human health and the environment.  It’s just that the costs are transferred to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on Earth.

If that’s what “free” means, shame on all of us.

60 Minutes:  The Wasteland

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=5274959n&tag=related;photovideo

Boston Globe:  Old TVs spark environmental dispute

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/03/02/old_televisions_spark_environmental_dispute/

Business Management:  The global e-waste problem

http://www.busmanagementme.com/news/global-e-waste/

Business Week:  E-waste:  The dirty secret of recycling electronics

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_43/b4105000160974.htm

CBC News:  E-waste mounting in developing countries

http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2010/02/22/tech-e-waste-report.html

CNET:  E-waste piles up in Nigeria

http://news.cnet.com/2300-1041_3-5911167.html?tag=mncol

CrunchGear:  Guiyu:  E-waste capital of China

http://www.crunchgear.com/2008/04/04/guiyu-e-waste-capital-of-china/

Earth911:  Trading company illegally ships e-waste overseas

http://earth911.com/news/2009/09/11/trading-company-illegally-ships-e-waste-overseas/

Earth 911:  Ghana a literal ‘digital dumping ground’

http://earth911.com/news/2009/07/14/video-ghana-a-literal-digital-dumping-ground/

Foreign Policy:  Inside the digital dump

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/09/23/inside_the_digital_dump

Inhabitat:  Electronics Recycling 101:  The problem with e-waste

http://inhabitat.com/electronics-recycling-101-the-problem-with-e-waste/

Popular Science:  The UN tries to address the international e-waste problem

http://popsci.typepad.com/popsci/2007/03/material_world.html

Sacramento Bee:  California recyclers find market for toxic trash

http://www.sacbee.com/2010/11/28/3216070/california-recyclers-find-market.html#ixzz17AERNcAU

Scienceblogs:  What we waste:  A view of e-trash

http://scienceblogs.com/worldsfair/2007/06/what_we_waste_a_view_of_etrash.php

ShanghaiIST:  Bonfire of the e-salvageries

http://shanghaiist.com/2009/08/31/bonfire_of_the_e-salvageries.php

TechNews Daily:  Global e-waste problem more dire than realized

http://www.technewsdaily.com/global-e-waste-problem-more-dire-than-realized-0265/

U.S. General Accounting Office:  Electronic waste:  Harmful U.S. exports flow virtually unrestricted…

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d081166t.pdf 

Asset tags pulled from a Chinese e-waste dump (Photo: Basel Action Network)

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