Video: 60 Minutes tackles exported E-waste

I'm still digesting this piece which ran on CBS this Sunday, but I am only getting around to today. This is deeply upsetting.
It was gloomy and wet when we came back to town the next morning. Lamy had arranged to meet a man who would be able to introduce us to some workers. We drove our small car to an appointed corner, he jumped into the back seat, and we drove off. The worker liaison was a small, wiry fellow in a tan rain slicker. He had scarred, dark skin with handsome features and a wary smile. As we rounded a corner and parked against the edge of a building, he told us that the town authorities had recently warned workers that they would spend 30 days in jail if they spoke with foreign reporters. Lamy explained to me that the workers are migrants from other parts of China. Since they’re not official citizens of this province, they have no right to health care or other protections. "I keep thinking that they are totally vulnerable" she said.
Who Was Following Whom? []
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19 Responses to Video: 60 Minutes tackles exported E-waste

  1. transparentplanet says:

    Want to be sure your recycling efforts don’t got awry?

    Ask whomever hired the recycler (town/county, etc) this:

    1. Did they get a list of all the places the recycler says he/she sends scrap to.
    2. Did they CALL EVERY ‘downstream’ buyer/processor to confirm they were told the truth?
    3. Did they find out what the downstream buyers/processors do?
    4. Can they prove to you they really did??

    As you see, it’s not an easy task. BUT, it is doable! Send me your e-mail address to to participate in a new blog launching this weekend to make transparency a no-brainer so you won’t have to go through all this work in the near future!

  2. Not a Doktor says:


    Two words for you bud, nethack server.

  3. ivan256 says:


    Don’t do it!

    I know, I know. Being frugal.. Recycling. Etc..

    The thing is, newer machines run at lower than their specced speed are both faster *and* more energy efficient. You will easily make up the purchase price in energy savings by buying new instead of recycling anything of Pentium 3 vintage or older. Plus, you didn’t consume all that energy, and you can run some other servers on the same hardware too.

  4. RedShirt77 says:

    Where the hell do I take my old TV without killing a kid in china?

  5. PatJ33 says:

    I need to get rid of my out of date Pentium 3 computer and would like to avoid it from being disposed like this. Any suggestions?

  6. nprnncbl says:

    Ivan256: You have a great point, but how do we factor in the untold environmental and human cost of e-waste?

  7. Anonymous says:

    The following article appeared in Mid-Day, one of the leading Afternoon Newspapers in India.

    British waste dumped in India
    By: PTI
    Date: 2008-09-08

    Household waste collected weekly across Britain for recycling is being shipped and dumped in India, according to an investigation.

    As part of country’s efforts to go green and improve the environment, UK councils ask households to carefully separate waste into different categories: plastics, metal, paper and glass so that they all can be recycled.

    But, according to the investigation, they were shipped to India on the waste black market, which is cheaper.

    It costs up to 148 pounds (Rs 12,000 approx) to recycle a tonne of rubbish once it is separated but only 40 pounds (Rs 4,000 approx) to ship it to India.

    The investigation found that a receipt put into a paper recycling bin in Essex turned up at the top of a stinking rubbish mount in Tamil Nadu.

    It was traced to the Walton-on-the-Naze home of Geoff Moore.

    European Union law bans sending waste abroad for dumping but allows it to go overseas if it has already been separated and provided that it is actually recycled.

    The Environment Agency promised to investigate the matter.

    Paul Bettison of the Local Government Authority Environment Board called for a change in the law and said “if a contractor refuses to reveal where materials are being sold it can undermine the whole process.”


  8. Thaddeus Smith says:

    i just burn my (and friends’, family’s, neighbor’s) electronics by the creek on my land. yeeehawww, texas!

  9. AirPillo says:

    If you think e-waste and CRT’s are bad, you should consider the epic nastyness that comes about from improper recycling of lead-acid batteries.

    I beleive there was one local case where an illegitimate smelter was caught cracking open batteries and allowing the fluids to drain into a nearby creek.

    Tons of sulfuric acid, countless amounts of lead compounds… it’s horrid, horrid stuff; and this was just what has happened here in -our- country. If these were shipped overseas to be smelted and were handled improperly the area it’s done in would make a superfund site look like your grandmother’s vegetable garden.

  10. TheBlessedBlogger says:

    This is outrageous and we obviously need to do something. What can we do to make sure we aren’t contributing to the problem and to get these companies shut down or the laws enforced?

  11. voivoed says:

    #4, we can’t trust the companies to tell us, because obviously they lie through their teeth and have not the slightest hint of shame about it.

    I really don’t know where to go for accurate info and I’m going to have nightmares tonight about the couple CRT monitors and printer I took to the local recycling “event” this year.

    I might just have to start keeping my old electronics in my basement forever.

  12. dodi says:

    Nightmares indeed Viovoed.

    Joel, please follow up with suggestions for responsibly recycling gadgets. You’ve long advocated buying less. This video demonstrates how important that is. I’m still going to buy a new cell phone next year (hate my current one). How do I dispose of the current phone with minimal impact (and for that matter, the previous two)?

  13. theirspace says:

    #17 posted by dodi

    DODI, you may be able to donate your old cell phone to an organization that helps women and children dealing with domestic violence…

    I also found this one that helps people living in poverty…

    Hope this helps!

  14. pduggie says:

    I would find very interesting a look inside a high tech version of a recovery plant.

    This is what the Chinese do low tech: what do the “good guys” do when they recover the stuff? what does it cost? etc.

  15. maxoid says:

    probably the first step is to halt the practice of planned obsolescence. perhaps one of the most destructive forces we experience today.

  16. pduggie says:

    Executive Recycling apparently strongly disputes 60 Minutes

    “Sadly, Executive Recycling appears now to be the victim of others who have obtained electronic and computer products from our company and then acted irresponsibly. These buyers apparently sought to hide their own misconduct by leaving the impression that their shipment was the responsibility of our company. We have discovered that forged documents (provided by the port authorities) were used to improperly shift blame to us when ER sold the tested working units to a Canadian wholesale buyer. We are currently seeking legal actions against this one wholesale buyer in regards to this report.”


  17. Anonymous says:

    there should be special punishments for hypocrites. it’s one thing to be a bad guy. It’s despicable for a bad guy to pretend to be good.
    I’ve always thought the law should have added time for con-men – police that breaks the law , politicians that don’t report donations , pretend green CEOs , officials that lie under oath.

  18. RedShirt77 says:

    “yeeehawww, texas!”

    Yehaw texas, indeed.

  19. DeWynken says:

    Very funny (in a sad way) to see Brandon Richter go from spewing greenie feel good catch phrases to whining about small companies being persecuted when confronted with his bullshittery. I hope Denver cancels his contract for starters.

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