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MIT Study: Only 3.1% of USA Used Electronics "e-Waste" Were Exported 58

Posted by samzenpus
from the just-toss-it dept.
retroworks writes "The MIT Materials Systems Laboratory, EU's StEP, and the U.S. National Center for Electronics Recycling (NCER) have released a study, Quantitative Characterization of Domestic and Transboundary Flows of Used Electronics, that analyses collection and export of obsolete electronics generated in the United States. It is the fifth study to debunk a widely reported statistic that '80 percent' of used electronics are dumped abroad. Last year, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) released studies of 279 sea containers, seized as 'e-waste' in African ports of Lagos and Accra, and found 91% of the goods were reused. According to the UN, most of the junk at Chinese and African dumps was generated in African cities (Lagos had 6.9M households with TV in 2007, World Bank). The UNEP study also bolsters African traders claims that used product purchased from nations with strong warranty laws outperform 'affordable' new product imported from Asia. Where did the 'original' widely reported statistic of 80% dumping (see /. slashdot dumping story) originate? Last May, in response to an editorial by Junkyard Planet author Adam Minter in Bloomberg, the source of dumping accusations (Basel Action Network) claimed 'never, ever' to have cited the statistic. The new studies have not slowed USA legislation aimed at banning trade of used electronics for repair, reuse and recycling overseas. This month, the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling ( announced 13 republicans and 5 democrats had signed on to support the bill 2791 to criminalize exports of non-shredded displays, cell phones, and computers. Interpol announced a new 'Project Eden' targeting African geek importers in November 2013." In related news, First time accepted submitter Accordion Noir writes: "Virginia tech researchers and a team from the US, Canada, and Russia have released a study indicating that the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 may have had positive environmental results in fish. Reduced mercury releases from mining in areas effected by the economic disarray in Russia led fish to have lower levels of methyl mercury than those in rivers on the Norwegian border or in Canada, where mining continued."
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MIT Study: Only 3.1% of USA Used Electronics "e-Waste" Were Exported

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  • Shipping containers (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dj245 (732906) on Monday December 23, 2013 @12:23PM (#45767289) Homepage
    I was going to post about how high shipping container rates are, and how it doesn't make sense to export them. But a quick estimate shows that shipping from the US to China is 1/7 the cost of China [] to US (Dalian-Oakland). This is probably the cheapest ocean shipping you can find since the trade between the US and China is so unbalanced. Africa is much more expensive. But you still need rail/truck transport on both ends, and you need to pay the people to process the waste (although not much). I would guess a 40ft container would need at least $3000-5000 of scrap electronics inside before it became worth sending to China. Sending to Africa would probably require a scrap value of at least $8000 since the ocean freight is much more.
  • Does not make sense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stellian (673475) on Monday December 23, 2013 @02:29PM (#45768311)

    criminalize exports of non-shredded displays, cell phones, and computers

    I don't see how this makes sense. Shouldn't they criminalize export of waste (ex.shredded electronics) and allow the export of usable office equipment, Pentium 4 computers and first generation flat panels ? That stuff has a high chance of being reused in Africa, it's market value is much above the lead and tin they contain. Reuse is the best form of recycling: a poor family gets a perfectly usable, 4-5 year old computer at 50$, and no waste is generated. My first computer was a second hand unit imported in Eastern Europe from the West. It cost $90, a month of income for my family, I used it for 5 years and it was the best purchase I have ever made in terms of ROI. I am now a software engineer earning a internationally competitive paycheck.

    What they are doing is destroying usable electronics and exporting THE JUNK. This must be lobbied by the IT industry, it has nothing to do with environmentalism.

    Sure, the second hand computers will eventually end up in the Lagos dump. But so would new ones, after a few more years. So you either deny computers to Africans or you fix the waste management problem. Banning export of USABLE hardware will improve waste problem but massively impact the growth of the African economies, which in turns generates all the other symptoms: bad public finances and public education, corruption, and no environmental policy.

"If you want to eat hippopatomus, you've got to pay the freight." -- attributed to an IBM guy, about why IBM software uses so much memory