Electronic Waste Sent to Asia
The Coalition for Responsibility Regarding Electronic Waste held a lecture in Social Science Lecture Hall emphasizing the importance of properly recycling electronic waste on Oct. 16.
The lecture was held by Candice Carr Kelman, a Ph.D. student in planning, policy and design interests. She explained that UC Irvine students have to take a more proactive stance on the disposal of dangerous electronic waste.
Carr explained that over 80 percent of electronics that reach the end of their life cycle in the United States are shipped to Asia. These wastes contain dangerous metals and chemicals.
‘Exporting Harm,’ a film shown during the lecture, concentrated on the Chinese city of Guiya, which receives daily imports of electronic waste. The film shows children playing around burning piles of wires that are giving off dark black smoke.
‘For money, people have made a mess of this beautiful farming village,’ said Mr. Ling, one of Guiya’s inhabitants interviewed in the film.
The film explains that in the last five years, Guiya has imported all of its drinking water, as waste has contaminated the fresh water in the village.
Villagers are referred to as ‘cyber-age gold miners’ for their practice of processing computer chips through a series of acids in order to extract minimal amounts of gold. The acids are shown running off into a nearby river.
The World Health Organization tested a river in Guiya and reported that the lead content was 2,400 times that of approved drinking water.
Cathode ray tubes, common in old computer monitors and televisions, are one the most toxic types of electronic waste. Stacks of these are shown in the village.
Carr explained that prisoners in the United States are often given the task of taking apart these CRTs.
‘The prisoners are not allowed to use tools, and are forced to break apart these dangerous materials with their bare hands,’ Carr said.
Carr and many other advocates of the safe disposal of environmental waste refer to this as a ‘toxic sentence.’
UCI professor Dele Ogunsteitan, a researcher in public health issues, gave a detailed analysis of the dangers of the electronic waste that is released into the environment. He explained that even though the recycling of electronic conductors is often thought of as the most successful form of recycling in the United States, most used lead still ends up in the environment.
Ogunsteitan said that it is imperative for manufacturers to research of environmentally benign products