Ugh. From an AP article about electronic recycling:
Most Americans think they’re helping the earth when they recycle their old computers, televisions and cell phones. But chances are they’re contributing to a global trade in electronic trash that endangers workers and pollutes the environment overseas.
Discarded electronics pile up at a recycling event Thursday in Bloomington, Minnesota.
While there are no precise figures, activists estimate that 50 to 80 percent of the 300,000 to 400,000 tons of electronics collected for recycling in the U.S. each year ends up overseas. Workers in countries such as China, India and Nigeria then use hammers, gas burners and their bare hands to extract metals, glass and other recyclables, exposing themselves and the environment to a cocktail of toxic chemicals.
I don’t remember to whom I was talking about this, but they mentioned that their primary concern about the OLPC program was adding a bunch of toxic e-waste into the cycle, harming those who will end up being tasked with the disassembly of the units. (The XO is thankfully “non-toxic,” according to their FAQ, although it doesn’t appear they have a recycling program implemented yet. None of this is to pick on the OLPC project in particular; in fact, it’s nice that the overall charitable nature of the project has caused us to be hyper-critical of its impact.)
Anyway, back on target: this is geek equivalent of ship breaking. I have to say I’m on board with the idea presented at the end of the article about take-back programs from original manufacturers. Who better to break apart the units than those that made them? And how better to provide them incentive to make them less toxic in the first place?