Archivo de la etiqueta: Salud

E-waste inferno burning brighter in China’s recycling capital

https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/25368882/e-waste-inferno-burning-brighter-in-chinas-recycling-capital/

E-waste inferno burning brighter in China s recycling capital
E-waste inferno burning brighter in China’s recycling capital

Guiyu (China) (AFP) – Mountains of discarded remote controls litter the warehouse floor. In a dimly-lit room, women on plastic stools pry open the devices, as if shucking oysters, to retrieve the circuitry inside.

In a narrow alley a few blocks over, a father and son from a distant province wash microchips in plastic buckets. Men haul old telephones and computer keyboards by the shovelful off a truck.

Some items will be refurbished and resold, others will be stripped for components or materials such as copper or gold.

Business is booming in the Chinese town of Guiyu, where the world’s electronic waste ends up for recycling — and is set to get even better.

But the industry has a heavy environmental cost. Electronic remnants are strewn in a nearby stream, and the air is acrid from the burning of plastic, chemicals and circuitboards.

Heavy metal contamination has turned the air and water toxic, and children have high lead levels in their blood, according to an August study by researchers at Shantou University Medical College.

Much of the e-waste that passed through Guiyu over the past few decades came from outside China.

Western countries are now making a greater effort to process their own e-waste, but Chinese domestic supply will soon be more than enough to step into any breach, campaigners say.

China’s surging economy has transformed the country into a consuming power in its own right — it is now the world’s largest smartphone market — and use of electronic devices has soared.

“Before, the waste was shipped from other parts of the world coming into China — that used to be the biggest source and the biggest problem,” said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, one of China’s foremost environmental NGOs.

“But now, China has become a consuming power of its own,” Ma said. “We have I think 1.1 billion cell phones used, and the life of our gadgets has become shorter and shorter.”

“I think the wave is coming,” he added. “It’s going to be a bigger problem.”

– ‘This cannot be allowed to go on’ –

China currently generates 6.1 million metric tonnes of e-waste a year, compared with 7.2 million for the US and 48.8 million globally, according to the United Nations University’s Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP) Initiative.

But while US e-waste production has increased by 13 percent over the past five years, China’s has nearly doubled, setting the Asian giant on track to overtake the US as the world’s biggest source as early as 2017.

Nowhere are the profit and environmental toll of e-waste recycling more on display than in Guiyu in the southern province of Guangdong, where some 80,000 of 130,000 residents work in the loosely-regulated industry, according to a 2012 local government estimate.

More than 1.6 million tonnes of e-waste pass through Guiyu each year, with recycling worth 3.7 billion yuan ($600 million) annually and attracting migrants from near and far.

“This work is tiring, but the salary is okay compared with the work in town,” said a 30-year-old surnamed Ma, who left a salesman’s job to dismantle electronics. “You can make 4,000 or 5,000 yuan ($650 to $815) a month.”

At the same time, the town has made worldwide headlines for the devastating health impact of its tainted environment.

“People think this cannot be allowed to go on,” said Leo Chen, 28, a financial worker who grew up in Guiyu.

The situation was better than a decade ago, he said, following authorities’ interventions, but the effects of years of pollution remain.

“In my memory, in front of my house, there was a river. It was green, and the water was very nice and clear,” he said. “Now, it’s black.”

– ‘Morally complicated’ –

Lai Yun, a Greenpeace researcher who has often visited Guiyu, said that while Beijing has tightened regulations enforcement is often lax, and the bottom line is that development cannot be obstructed.

“From the government’s perspective, e-waste gathering and processing is important for the local economy,” Lai said. “Research has shown that 80 percent of households are involved in this work. So, if they don’t expand this industry, these residents will need some other kind of employment.”

Central authorities including China’s powerful National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) have invested heavily in Guiyu’s recycling industry, pointed out Adam Minter, author of “Junkyard Planet”, on the economics of the global scrap industry.

The overall picture was mixed, he said.

“There is an environmental good happening there — they’re extending the life span of usable components, they’re pulling things out and recycling them, or sending them to Korea and Japan, something that’s very expensive to do in the US and the EU,” he said.

“Yet they do it in a way that’s not always good for human health and the environment,” he added. “Recycling is a morally complicated act.”

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Toxic ‘e-waste’ dumped in poor nations, says United Nations

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2013/dec/14/toxic-ewaste-illegal-dumping-developing-countries

Millions of tonnes of old electronic goods illegally exported to developing countries, as people dump luxury items
iPads

Tablets and other electronic goods bought this Christmas are destined to create a flood of ‘e-waste’. Photograph: Anthony Upton/Rex Features

Millions of mobile phones, laptops, tablets, toys, digital cameras and other electronic devices bought this Christmas are destined to create a flood of dangerous “e-waste” that is being dumped illegally in developing countries, the UN has warned.

The global volume of electronic waste is expected to grow by 33% in the next four years, when it will weigh the equivalent of eight of the great Egyptian pyramids, according to the UN’s Step initiative, which was set up to tackle the world’s growing e-waste crisis. Last year nearly 50m tonnes of e-waste was generated worldwide – or about 7kg for every person on the planet. These are electronic goods made up of hundreds of different materials and containing toxic substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and flame retardants. An old-style CRT computer screen can contain up to 3kg of lead, for example.

Once in landfill, these toxic materials seep out into the environment, contaminating land, water and the air. In addition, devices are often dismantled in primitive conditions. Those who work at these sites suffer frequent bouts of illness.

An indication of the level of e-waste being shipped to the developing world was revealed by Interpol last week. It said almost one in three containers leaving the EU that were checked by its agents contained illegal e-waste. Criminal investigations were launched against 40 companies. “Christmas will see a surge in sales and waste around the world,” says Ruediger Kuehr, executive secretary of Step. “The explosion is happening because there’s so much technical innovation. TVs, mobile phones and computers are all being replaced more and more quickly. The lifetime of products is also shortening.”

According to the Step report, e-waste – which extends from old fridges to toys and even motorised toothbrushes – is now the world’s fastest growing waste stream. China generated 11.1m tonnes last year, followed by the US with 10m tonnes, though there was significant difference per capita. For example, on average each American generated 29.5kg, compared to less than 5kg per person in China.

By 2017, Kuehr expects the volume of end-of-life TVs, phones, computers, monitors, e-toys and other products to be enough to fill a 15,000-mile line of 40-tonne lorries. In Europe, Germany discards the most e-waste in total, but Norway and Liechtenstein throw away more per person. Britain is now the world’s seventh most prolific producer, discarding 1.37m tonnes, or about 21kg per person. No figures are available from government or industry on how much is exported.

Although it is legal to export discarded goods to poor countries if they can be reused or refurbished, much is being sent to Africa or Asia under false pretences, says Interpol. “Much is falsely classified as ‘used goods’ although in reality it is non-functional. It is often diverted to the black market and disguised as used goods to avoid the costs associated with legitimate recycling,” said a spokesman. “A substantial proportion of e-waste exports go to countries outside Europe, including west African countries. Treatment in these countries usually occurs in the informal sector, causing significant environmental pollution and health risks for local populations,” he said.

Few countries understand the scale of the problem, because no track is kept of all e-waste, says the European Environment Agency, which estimates between 250,000 tonnes and 1.3m tonnes of used electrical products are shipped out of the EU every year, mostly to west Africa and Asia. “These goods may subsequently be processed in dangerous and inefficient conditions, harming the health of local people and damaging the environment,” said a spokesman.

A new study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that the US discarded 258.2m computers, monitors, TVs and mobile phones in 2010, of which only 66% was recycled. Nearly 120m mobile phones were collected, most of which were shipped to Hong Kong, Latin America and the Caribbean. The shelf life of a mobile phone is now less than two years, but the EU, US and Japanese governments say many hundreds of millions are thrown away each year or are left in drawers. In the US, only 12m mobile phones were collected for recycling in 2011 even though 120m were bought. Meanwhile, newer phone models are racing on to the market leaving old ones likely to end up in landfills. Most phones contain precious metals. The circuit board can contain copper, gold, zinc, beryllium, and tantalum, the coatings are typically made of lead and phone makers are now increasingly using lithium batteries. Yet fewer than 10% of mobile phones are dismantled and reused. Part of the problem is that computers, phones and other devices are becoming increasingly complex and made of smaller and smaller components.

The failure to recycle is also leading to shortages of rare-earth minerals to make future generations of electronic equipment.

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Agbogbloshie: the world’s largest e-waste dump – in pictures

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2014/feb/27/agbogbloshie-worlds-largest-e-waste-dump-in-pictures

Discarders of electronic goods expect them to be recycled properly. But almost all such devices contain toxic chemicals which, even if they are recyclable, make it expensive to do so. As a result, illegal dumping has become a lucrative business.

Photographer Kevin McElvaney documents Agbogbloshie, a former wetland in Accra, Ghana, which is home to the world’s largest e-waste dumping site. Boys and young men smash devices to get to the metals, especially copper. Injuries, such as burns, untreated wounds, eye damage, lung and back problems, go hand in hand with chronic nausea, anorexia, debilitating headaches and respiratory problems. Most workers die from cancer in their 20s

Adam Nasara, 25, uses Styropor, an insulating material from refrigerators, to light a fire
Adam Nasara, 25, uses Styropor, an insulating material from refrigerators, to light a fire
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‘Nuevo cada año’: ¿A qué huele lo nuevo?

http://www.carrodecombate.com/2013/10/30/nuevo-cada-ao-qu-huele-lo-nuevo/

Texto escrito por el Grupo de electrónica ética de Ingeniería Sin Fronteras

Circula por ese mundo que nos bombardea consciente o inconscientemente, al que llamamos publicidad, una nueva campaña de la operadora Vodafone, que ofrece la posibilidad de cambiar de móvil cada año. En el anuncio en cuestión, nos hablan de la fascinación que siente el ser humano por la novedad, centrándose especialmente en el olor a nuevo.

Quizás podría sonar exagerado o sensacionalista decir que el olor a un nuevo smartphone también es olor a sangre, pero teniendo en cuenta las condiciones de vida de los trabajadores de la minería del coltán, en gran medida africanos (50% Republica Democrática del Congo 15% Zambia)1, o las evidencias del uso de explotación infantil en la extracción de este y otros metales, como el estaño2, no seríamos en ningún caso injustos al sostener tal afirmación.

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