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Electronic Waste: Part Two

Here’s part two of my podcast and slideshow about E-Waste. Enjoy!

Also, here are the transcripts from both last week and this week as  Word Documents if you are interested to read them - you may have to click through twice to download them.

Electronic Waste Part 1

Electronic Waste Part 2

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  1. Jimena 23:09, Apr 3rd, 10

    Very interesting, and very scary.

    In Mexico we are lagging way behind other countries’ regulations for e-waste management. Even though we are not one of the main electronics manufacturers, between 150,000 and 180,000 tons of electronic waste are generated each year. Legislation that forces producers to take responsibility is currently in its very early stages, there is little awareness amongst consumers about this problem, and it’s not easy to find places that recycle electronics.

    Still, there is another side to the problem. As in many other developing countries, there is a huge informal recycling economy going on. Not just e-waste, but garbage in general is the primary income source for thousands of Mexican families. An enormous unofficial –but nonetheless very organized– system exists, where discarded objects are resold in bulk or dismembered to be sold by parts. Logically, electronic waste can be sold far better than cardboard, fabric, or other materials. So ironically, the e-waste that arrives from the US feeds an informal but strong waste economy… Of course, this garbage (local and imported) is handled without any considerations to its toxicity, polluting land and water, and it’s re-recycled and re-sold over and over, thus circulating for years after the original consumer has discarded it.

  2. Juliette 07:49, Apr 4th, 10

    Congrats Elizabeth!
    I found your new episode really educational!
    You managed to provide us with a lot of content without losing our attention.

    In this part you focus on the environmental issue. I found this article quiet interesting (although it might be a little outdated)

    And this actually relates to Jimena’s question on the fact that the waste feeds an important economic system. I am wondering how to encourage companies to take care of the e-waste in an “environment friendly” way when they can make money out of it. What incentive could come out to balance the loss of profit? What is your insight on that issue?

  3. Juliette 08:01, Apr 4th, 10

    Weird link problem!

    I am sorry Elizabeth, apparently Business Week entered the wrong code for this link. I just send them an email and they will come back with the good one. In the meantime you can still just enter “business week” and “e-waste” in your search engine and you should find it…

  4. juliette b 11:22, Apr 5th, 10

    Business Week came back to me.
    Here is the link

  5. Ryan 15:48, Apr 5th, 10

    Wonderfully informative podcast+slideshow. Your slides were very coordinated as they added a nice visual depth to your media. I have really appreciated your educational/journalistic style of travelogues as you really explore and investigate the environment that your concentrating on. I guess the next step if you could would be to do a presentation of yourself (if you wanted to) and incorporated cut-ins of images. Basically, it would be a newscast like a newsreporter where you narrate your story with cut-ins of images.

    Very interesting comparisons of Canada and Switzerland. I thought your predictions, conclusions, and recommendations at the end were great too. I would agree that this is largely overshadowed and slept on by other environmental issues like global warming and energy, where waste management gets pushed to the side. Maybe Al Gore needs to come out with an Inconvenient Truth Pt. 2 “E-Waste”. The interesting thing is that the global warming topic is a debate where some don’t believe in its validity where your case of e-waste at least has some tangible and concrete evidence of the growing problem.

    I look forward to your conclusion post. I would love to see you attempt a news reporter style video to conclude it and try to incorporate cut ins of images or video. Or you could stick with this slideshow + podcast thing you got going. Either way, it’ll be great.

    I guess it’s kinda harder to when you think about it because you can’t put your computer in the recycling bin nor I doubt people really “like” throwing it in the trash. But I guess most just put it on the side of the road. Am I right?

  6. niharika 02:02, Apr 6th, 10

    Similar to the situation described in Mexico, there is a lot of outsourcing of e-waste recycling to India as well. A recent report by the United Nations says that more and more e-waste is ending up in developing countries… India alone is expected to see a 500% increase in e-waste dumping and recycling in the next 10years (http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=612&ArticleID=6471&l=en&t=long)

    E-waste reclamation costs are a few dollars in India as compared to approx $20 in the States, so once again to save costs the US is outsourcing to a developing nation. What you may not know is that the import of electronic waste or related items is illegal in India. So as with Mexico, the illegal dumping of a few hundred thousand tons of e-waste leads to the development of an informal, illegal economy and job creation, much more lucrative to the garbage pickers who survive by sifting through and selling garbage.

    Check out this video I found on e-waste recycling & the health hazards the workers working in this industry are facing everyday .. (the narrator is kinda monotone, but I thought it was informative nevertheless)


    India is however slowly cracking down on the situation through community programs and new legislation. Just yesterday in what can be described as the first major initiative to address the problem, e-waste disposal bins were placed around New Delhi in some schools and public areas, and more are to come.

    Oh, and Elizabeth here is a paper comparing E-Waste Recycling in Switzerland & India, in case you want to take a look … http://www.empa.ch/plugin/template/empa/*/51479

  7. Alexandra 10:18, Apr 6th, 10

    I can’t see your slides for some reason! it’s just a blank space where they should be. I am having the same issue for juliette’s travelogue. i have tried on several browsers, any ideas?

  8. ElzbthMllr 10:55, Apr 6th, 10

    Thanks everyone for the feedback and all the additional links and studies. There is so much info out there on this problem it is really overwhelming!

    @Alexandra – I’m sorry you are having trouble. It seems to be working for me on all the browsers. I can try to send it to you via e-mail if you’d like?

  9. Alexandra 11:44, Apr 6th, 10

    I got it! It works on my mac but not my work PC for some reason. I am interested in hearing more about what actually constitutes safe recycling. Assuming the waste doesn’t go to a developing country where it will pollute the groundwater… is it polluting groundwater somewhere else?

  10. HoniehLayla 12:19, Apr 6th, 10

    I am concerned as to why the legislation is new? We have been using computers and material products such as this for over 20 years. It is true that maybe it has become main stream in the past 10 years, but just as we know how to properly dispose of a car battery, we should know how to dispose of computer.

    I really think your research was informal, especially since the regulations vary from state to state. I still don’t know how to dump my old hard drives, but I will definitely take a look at your links and follow up on your next post.

    I’m curious as to why the recycling programs don’t simply implement a new regulation and apply it to this type of waste.

    We should definitely take a lesson from Switzerland.

  11. ElzbthMllr 12:23, Apr 6th, 10

    @Honieh, as I mentioned in last week’s post you can go to the Electronic Take Back Campaign to figure out what to do with your personal electronics. The link is here:


    It will tell you recyclers in your area, or if there aren’t any it has steps to follow.

    My guess is that the Recycling programs don’t have the authority to implement a new regulation.

  12. HoniehLayla 12:29, Apr 6th, 10


    Yes I remember talking about the Electronic Take Back – my only issue is do most people bother to look this information up?

    It is so much simpler to have a bin by your house or apartment to put your recycling in, or call your local sanitation department to dispose of large items.

    I feel as though this information has to be made mainstream much quicker.

  13. Leslie 09:39, Apr 8th, 10

    Hey Elizabeth- did you hear about the electronics recycling event happening this weekend? Looks like it’s worth checking out: http://www.re-nest.com/re-nest/sales-and-events/this-saturday-in-nyc-electronics-recycling-event-113398

  14. ElzbthMllr 15:52, Apr 8th, 10

    @Leslie – Thanks I hadn’t seen that and it looks right up my alley. Sadly I’m actually in Atlanta for a work conference until Saturday night so I am going to miss it :( I will see if I can convince a friend to go for me and report back! Good luck w/ the ice-cream and twitter, so far it looks really great!

  15. nadine 16:43, Apr 24th, 10

    I’ve added more names of organizations that work in e-waste management (from the article that Niharika posted)