End the dumping of toxic E-Waste in Third World nations

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The great majority of the “e-waste” whether computers, peripherals or whatever, is not recycled in a proper manner but is being exported from countries such as the USA and the UK, and more than likely others in Europe too, to Third World countries, such as India, Ghana, Nigeria, and others.

e-waste in Africa It is in those countries, but also in China, Pakistan and thereabouts, where the poor then are “employed” to retrieve the salvageable materials from said electronic waste that the industrialized countries dump on their countries.

E-waste is a highly hazardous material regulated, to all intents and purposes, by the United Nations Basel Convention on the Trans-boundary Movement of Hazardous Waste, a treaty that was intended to end the dumping of hazardous wastes by industrialized countries into the developing world.

The dumping of electronic waste, which was but a very small fraction of the concern of those that negotiated the Basel treaty, is now a huge hazardous waste problem in the developing world, contaminating water supplies and land with toxic heavy metals, dioxins, PCBs and acids, and putting some of the world’s poorest populations at great risk.

Much of the reclaiming of salvageable materials is done by burning and the chemicals released in this way are some of the most dangerous know to man.

Even with all that we know about this illicit, dangerous and unethical trade, it is unlikely that the United States Congress will ratify the Basel treaty due to opposition from unethical waste processors with strong political clout in Washington, D.C. And it is even less likely that Congress will enact amendments to the Basel treaty adopted by European Union nations that strengthen it and make the export of e waste to the developing world outright illegal. Surprise... Not!

Self-interested firms who export e-waste to the developing world misleadingly argue that this is a “Free Trade” issue. Or they claim to be “donating” used electronics to poor people around the world who can’t afford new electronic equipment. What they are really doing is hiding behind phantom policies that sound nice but in fact export poisons to some of the poorest people on Earth, people already disproportionately burdened with unimaginable ecological, financial, social and political problems.

We all, but especially businesses must, therefore be most wary of all so-called e-waste recyclers and demand proof of valid certification and of documentation as to how and there the materials are being recycled.

© 2010