The bridge to the digital dump

The Washington Post reports on a disaster. The dumping, often under the pretense of recyling, of useless computer equipment and parts in Africa.

The Washington Post reports on a disaster. The dumping, often under the pretense of recyling, of useless computer equipment and parts in Africa.

The United Nations Environment Program estimates that 20 million to 50 million tons of electronics are discarded each year. Less than 10 percent of the discards get recycled, and half or more end up overseas, much exported for inexpensive, often unsafe and environmentally unsound recycling, primarily in China and India.
 

At least half of the used equipment that arrives in Lagos by the ton is unusable and ends up in landfills, a Seattle-based nonprofit discovered recently after sending a team to survey the situation.

And what can be done? A lot that isn't.

The United States also remains the only developed country that has not ratified the Basel Convention, a treaty designed to control international trade in hazardous waste. "This makes the U.S. a haven for a renegade scrap trade," Lynch said.

"It's a shadowy industry, and there's a lot more scrap than working computers," said Robert Houghton, president of Redemtech Inc. in Columbus, Ohio, which handles electronics recycling for Fortune 500 companies.

U.S. regulations allow export of used electronics and parts destined for reuse or recycling, but "unfortunately our government does nothing to distinguish between true reuse and the abuse of dumping on our global neighbors," Puckett said.

Once again, Africa is the forgotten continent. 

 

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