Wednesday, December 31, 2008


USA's trashed TVs, computer monitors can make toxic mess
By Julie Schmit, USA TODAY
SEATTLE — Hong Kong intercepted and returned 41 ship containers to U.S. ports this year because they carried tons of illegal electronics waste from the U.S., according to the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department.

By turning the containers away, Hong Kong thwarted attempts by U.S. companies to dump 1.4 million pounds of broken TVs or computer monitors overseas and an estimated 82,000 pounds of lead, a known toxin, in the devices.


But thousands of other shipments probably slipped through, says Jim Puckett, head of the Basel Action Network, or BAN, a three-employee environmental non-profit that over eight years has become a respected watchdog over the rapidly growing electronics recycling industry.

Puckett expects much more e-waste will be exported from the U.S. once the broadcasting industry switches to digital signals on Feb. 17 and millions of households junk their old analog TV sets.

That's one reason BAN and other activists have ramped up efforts to slow the unfettered export of the USA's e-waste to poorer countries. There are signs they're getting results. Since August, when the Government Accountability Office released a blistering investigative report declaring that exported U.S. e-waste was often disposed of unsafely in countries such as China and India, BAN has received pledges from dozens of electronics recyclers that they won't export. It also has won more support for its ambitious plan to set standards for recyclers so that customers can identify the environmentally responsible ones. Meanwhile, more companies of all kinds — fearful of being exposed as global polluters — are auditing recyclers to make sure they don't export refuse from electronics to poorer countries.

"We are at a tipping point," says Robert Houghton, president of e-waste recycler Redemtech of Ohio, one of the industry's leaders. "More companies recognize that people care about this, and there's a bit more regulatory attention being paid to people defrauding the system."

Puckett, 54, a former Greenpeace worker, was among the first to show U.S. consumers the impact of toxic e-waste on China. In 2001, he traveled to Guiyu, China, with a handheld camera and a Chinese translator. There, he documented tens of thousands of peasants soaking spent electronics in acid baths or burning them in open-air fires to recover the gold, silver and copper within. The rudimentary techniques left behind toxic sludge, air and water. BAN and the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition turned his investigation into a film, Exporting Harm, which was distributed throughout the electronics industry and helped publicize the issue.

This past May, Puckett returned to the same village with a news crew from 60 Minutes and found that the situation had worsened. 60 Minutes dubbed Guiyu "one the most toxic places on Earth," where tests have shown seven of 10 children have high levels of lead in their bodies.

Still, the landscape has shifted measurably. In 2001, Puckett and the one other BAN employee could find no U.S. recyclers who weren't exporting e-waste to developing countries. No U.S. law prevented the export of e-waste to developing countries.

Since then, BAN — working on a shoestring budget from an office in Seattle with mismatched furniture and concrete floors — has had 40 recyclers take its E-Steward pledge not to export to poorer countries. In the wake of August's report from the GAO, Congress' investigative arm, 82 other recyclers have joined BAN's waiting list to earn its E-Steward designation.

What's more, more businesses and institutions are requesting that their recyclers be E-Stewards. Earlier this year, Wells Fargo started seeking recyclers that have taken the E-Stewards pledge or plan to. Last year, the University of California started requiring that its recyclers be E-Stewards. Also in 2007, Sony became the first electronics maker to take BAN's pledge requiring that its recyclers not export to developing countries.

Samsung Electronics America says it modeled its recycling program on BAN's standards. "They are the most stringent, and we wanted to set a high bar," says Steven Cook, Samsung senior vice president.

Equally important, more companies are auditing recyclers. "Four years ago, the corporations called and said, 'I've got stuff. Can you come and get it?' " says Mike Wright, CEO of Guaranteed Recycling Experts in Denver. "Now they say, 'I've got stuff. What are you going to do with it, and our auditors will check that out.' "

Tougher audit process

BAN (, too, is strengthening its audit procedures. In 2010, it'll launch a voluntary certification program for the USA's 300 to 500 e-waste recyclers. The EPA estimates the industry recycles 60 million electronics products a year, most of which are exported.

Now, E-Stewards must pass a "desk audit" by BAN. The audit includes a check of a recycler's paperwork and phone interviews with their subcontractors to track e-waste from collection to disposal. To be BAN-certified, recyclers will have to pay for more rigorous audits by trained inspectors. Those will include onsite visits of recyclers and subcontractors. BAN's current E-Stewards have pledged $400,000 — double BAN's annual budget — to help BAN develop its standard, hire consultants and train auditors to track e-waste through what can be a maze of recyclers, brokers and wholesalers.

"We know all the tricks that people use to hide exports," says Houghton of Redemtech, one of the E-Stewards. He says companies that hire recyclers and "want to do the right thing" lack auditing expertise to track e-waste. He estimates that 80% of U.S. e-waste collected for recycling is exported and that most recyclers "defraud their clients when it comes to exporting."

The recycling industry's trade association, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, disagrees.

"I have to believe the majority are doing the right thing," says Robin Wiener, ISRI president. She says illegal exports should be stopped but that a ban on e-waste exports to developing countries would punish companies in those countries that have high-tech recycling capabilities.

Instead of a ban, ISRI supports another new certification effort, dubbed R-2, which is also supported by the EPA. To be R-2 certified, recyclers can export to some developing countries, but they have to verify that those exports are recycled responsibly, says the EPA's Tisha Petteway.

Puckett says R-2 is full of loopholes, including one allowing unrestricted export of old circuit boards as long as they're shredded — which doesn't remove some toxic material.

ISRI also says that the U.S. should help China and others upgrade their recycling facilities. Focusing on exports is a "red herring," says Eric Harris, ISRI's director of international affairs.

While BAN and others have long charged that U.S. e-waste was polluting poorer countries, the GAO's August report lent weight to their claims.

The GAO, after a 10-month investigation, lambasted the EPA for failing to enforce the USA's only regulation regarding e-waste exports. That rule says that broken cathode-ray tubes (CRTs) — the lead-containing picture tubes in older TVs and computer monitors — cannot be exported unless the U.S. recycler notifies the EPA and gets permission from the importing country.

Posing as buyers of broken CRTs in Asia, the GAO investigators e-mailed 343 U.S. recyclers looking for old CRTs. Of the 64 companies that responded, 43 agreed to export the CRTs in apparent violation of the CRT rule, the GAO said.

When contacted by the GAO, many of the companies claimed not to export CRTs even though their employees offered just that to undercover GAO investigators. Many of the recyclers also touted their environmental images on websites. None had notified the EPA of their intent to export, and some told investigators that the CRT rule was never enforced, the GAO report said.

Given that the CRT rule was enacted in 2007, the EPA says it was more focused on educating recyclers than on enforcement. But it also said that it's undertaken 20 investigations of recyclers and fined one recycler $10,000. The agency refused to give further details.

Increased vigilance

Because of the GAO's investigation, "EPA enforcement went from non-existent, to them actually doing something," says John Stephenson, the GAO's lead investigator on the e-waste report.

He says the GAO consulted BAN, and other groups, when doing its investigation. BAN, in particular, showed investigators from both the GAO and the EPA how to track illegal exports.

BAN's tactic? It stations volunteers near recyclers' loading docks and photographs container numbers as the containers get filled. Then, BAN tracks the containers' movement via public websites and alerts officials in the receiving country that a suspect container is on the way.

Some of the containers turned back in Hong Kong resulted from tips from BAN, its records indicate. Hong Kong refused to name the companies involved.

Puckett says recyclers are so aware of BAN that they've tried to hide container numbers from photographers. He says BAN, traditionally funded by environmentally focused foundations and individuals, will continue that work, as well as its certification business.

"The industry is scared," he says. "That's a good thing."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

more sensible Indian commentary

Looking forward: Let’s resolve e-waste in 2009

Alok Verma

30 December 2008, Tuesday

WITH THE end of 2008 there appears to be a genuine optimism that the year 2009 would be a witness to more cheers and less of threats, violence, fear, crises, clashes and conflicts. Optimism is what brings motivation for change. And, in all fairness we all must work towards making 2009 as the ‘year of optimism’. Unless we remain optimistic it is quite possible that the threats that are staring us so dangerously may again throw us into the realm of pessimism.

We as a nation have just been a witness to the worst kind of terrorism, economic crisis, commodity crisis, petroleum crisis, stock market crisis and real estate crisis. We are not too sure when and how we would be coming out of it. But while probing the root cause a little too closely behind these crises one finds only one symptom responsible for it – the indifferent people.

We have been indifferent to yawning unfair business practices, inequitable income and distribution of resources, denial of fair justice, rudimentary rights to live. The insatiable greed and avarice have led to the ills that we are confronting in contemporary times. The growing disdain of people towards those issues that cut across geographical boundaries, classes, castes and religion but are critical, significant and of concern for the humanity to survive. Unless these demons are reined in early there is very little for hope for addressing much larger issues such as energy, water and environment.

Often, I read about drastic changes in weather patterns across continents that are causing rise in sea level, melting of polar icecaps and ever-increasing levels of all forms of pollution. A lot of thrust is being laid on conservation of environment as one of the major concerns around the globe. But what has jolted me out of my slumber is a recent article that someone has sent me as part of the chain mail. The article talks about the portent dangers of almost unstoppable generation of electronic waste (e-waste). And, one single reason that wallops tonnes of energy, water, emission of greenhouse gases and produces tonnes of electronic waste is the mindlessly growing but inevitable necessary information technology infrastructure across India.

The scale of the problem is so gigantic that it is spine-chilling if one comes across certain statistics. According to a report by hardware body Manufacturers Association of Information Technology (MAIT), e-waste from discarded computers, TVs and mobile phones is projected to grow to more than 800,000 tonnes by 2012, with a growth rate of 15 per cent in India. "If the situation is not controlled, we may see large land-fills of junk e-waste around our cities 10 years down the line," says MAIT executive director Vinnie Mehta.

E-waste encompasses ever growing range of obsolete electronic devices such as computers, servers, main frames, monitors, TVs and display devices, telecommunication devices such as cellular phones, pagers, calculators, audio and video devices, printers, scanners, copiers and fax machines besides refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines and microwave ovens, e-waste also covers recording devices such as DVDs, CDs, floppies, tapes, printing cartridges, military electronic waste, automobile catalytic converters, electronic components such as chips, processors, mother boards, printed circuit boards, industrial electronics such as sensors, alarms, sirens, security devices, automobile electronic devices.

There is an estimate that the total obsolete computers originating from government offices, business houses, industries and household is of the order of two million every year. Manufactures and assemblers in a single calendar year, estimated to produce around 1200 tons of electronic scrap. It should be noted that obsolesce rate of personal computers (PC) is one in every two years. The consumers find it convenient to buy a new computer rather than upgrade the old one due to the changing configuration, technology and the attractive offers of the manufacturers.

Due to the lack of governmental legislations on e-waste, standards for disposal, proper mechanism for handling these toxic hi-tech products, mostly end up in landfills or partly recycled in a unhygienic conditions and partly thrown into waste streams. Computer waste is generated from the individual households; the government, public and private sectors; computer retailers; manufacturers; foreign embassies; secondary markets of old PCs. Of these, the biggest sources of PC scrap are foreign countries that export huge computer waste in the form of reusable components.

With extensive use of computers, mobile phones and other electronic equipments and people dumping old devices for new ones, the amount of e-waste generated has been steadily increasing. At present, Bangalore alone generates about 8000 tonnes of computer waste annually and in the absence of proper disposal, these find their way to scrap dealers. According to Toxic Link, a Delhi-based non-governmental organization about 3.3 lakh tonnes of e-waste generated in 2007 was dumped into the rivers, land-fills and sewage drains. . "E-waste is going to be one the major problems facing the world after climate change and poverty," says Nokia India managing director D Shiva Kumar.

One can estimate the quantum of crisis when according to Siva Kumar five lakh people walk in every month at Nokia stores around the country to buy new phones and of them thousands would be junking their old phones. Worst is that these phones are not being recycled but get piled up as e-waste. Imagine, almost a similar number of phones of other cell phone manufacturers must also be getting junked in lieu of new phones.

Electronic waste or e-waste is one of the rapidly growing environmental problems of the world. In India, the electronic waste management assumes greater significance not only due to the generation of our own waste but also dumping of e-waste particularly computer waste from the developed countries. All of us who are using the internet or mobile as a medium of communication must understand the dangers of e-waste and use the year of 2009 to create mass awareness of its portent dangers. Let e-waste not become another threat to humanity as we already have many threats to deal with.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Minnesota's E-waste: Talking high-tech trash

By Tom Meersman, Star Tribune
December 26, 2008

All those new gizmos and gadgets gleefully pulled from beneath the Christmas tree are about to spur a high tide of household waste as piles of old gizmos and gadgets are discarded.
By the time you dump in the usual remains of the holidays -- the packaging, wrapping paper, ribbons, stale fruitcakes and turkey carcasses -- daily household waste increases by more than 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, state pollution control officials say.

Every year the techno-waste portion of the pile is growing, and that's not as easy to dispose of or recycle. Electronic items, dubbed e-waste, are the fastest-growing segment of residential trash. There's a compounding twist this year in particular: Officials expect tons of additional waste as consumers replace old analog TV sets with new digital models.

"We're expecting a tsunami of stuff," said Rep. Paul Gardner, DFL-Shoreview, former executive director of the Recycling Association of Minnesota.

State recycling firms already have seen a huge increase in electronic waste since 2006, when the Legislature banned landfill disposal of TVs and computers with cathode ray tubes. More regulations were added in 2007.

The reason is that electronic waste includes heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury and lead that can contaminate groundwater, and also contain iron, copper and precious metals that have significant value.

"It's important for people to know that these devices can be recycled and should be kept out of the garbage," said Amy Roering, supervising environmentalist for Hennepin County.

E-waste includes not only TVs and home computers, she said, but also keyboards and other peripherals, cell phones, fax machines, photocopiers, stereo equipment, older phones, VCR and DVD players and other techno-trash.

Consumers who want to discard such items responsibly have several options, Roering said:

• In Minneapolis, TVs, computer monitors, VCRs and certain other items are picked up as part of the recycling program.

• Some cities and counties have dropoff sites where people can bring unwanted electronic items, often at little or no cost. A guide with locations and hours for sites in the Twin Cities area is available at and for non-metro locations at

• Recycling companies will accept and sometimes pick up e-waste, usually for a fee. Registered firms are listed on those same websites.

• Companies that manufacture TVs, computer monitors and laptops are required by law to collect and recycle a certain percentage of what they sell in the state each year. Some have developed dropoff events in conjunction with recycling firms or retailers.

Best Buy Co. stores have kiosks that offer free places to drop cell phones, ink jet cartridges, DVDs and CDs at no cost and with no purchase requirement. In its Minnesota stores, said spokeswoman Kelly Groehler, the company also provides a take-back service for a variety of electronics and TVs with screens smaller than 36 inches. Consumers must pay a $10 fee per item, she said, but they also receive a $10 Best Buy gift card. "People are getting smarter about the environmental impacts of how they live," Groehler said.

Much of Minnesota's e-waste collected by companies and government programs is hauled to a few firms that disassemble it. One of the largest, Materials Processing Corp. in Eagan, has seen its volume skyrocket from 3.4 million pounds in 2006 to an estimated 18 million pounds in 2008. "Pretty much everything with an electronic pulse, we deal with," said CEO David Kutoff. Materials Processing takes apart TVs and other equipment, a process known as "demanufacturing," and separates the plastic, circuit boards, leaded glass and other components before shipping them to specialized firms to be melted or smelted.

Scrap metal becomes rebar for construction, said Kutoff, copper and aluminum are used for wire and other products, and circuit boards and motherboards are sent to a smelter in Belgium where gold, silver, palladium and other precious metals are recovered.

Garth Hickle, product stewardship leader at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said that the development of electronics recycling is a huge plus for Minnesota because it creates jobs, lessens pressure on landfills and prevents unnecessary use of oil and the mining of lead and other metals.

In the first year of recycling e-waste under the state's 2007 law, said Hickle, counties and companies reported collecting more than 33 million pounds of TVs, computers and peripherals, printers, fax machines and DVD and VCR players. On average, said Garth, that means 6.5 pounds per state resident, with much more to come. "That was eye-popping, and it certainly exceeded our expectations of the amount of material that's out there."

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Today's new gadget gift could be tomorrow's e-waste


Environment Canada estimates more than 157,000 tonnes of electronics were sent to landfills in 2002 — including TVs, computers, printers, cellphones, audio and video equipment, and home appliances.
Photograph by : Bruce Edwards/Edmonton Journal
TORONTO — Thousands of televisions, computers, cellphones and other electronic gadgets will be relegated to obsolete status during the holiday season as gift-giving brings new technology to homes across the country.

Some of those "old" electronics will find a second life through donations or recycling programs, but most will sit in basements or drawers before being sent to landfill or exported overseas.

"It's a growing problem," said Shirley Thompson, an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba Natural Resources Institute.

"These items contain toxic metals and other chemicals and often they are ending up in landfills."

Environment Canada estimates more than 157,000 tonnes of electronics were sent to landfills in 2002 — including TVs, computers, printers, cellphones, audio and video equipment, and home appliances.

By 2010, that number is expected to rise to 206,000 tonnes.

Televisions are the largest source of e-waste, followed by desktop computers and monitors. Studies in Europe have estimated 40 per cent of the lead found in landfills comes from e-waste, Thompson said.

An estimated 4,750 tonnes of lead is contained in computers and televisions disposed of each year, according to Environment Canada.

Hazardous and toxic materials found in electronic waste have been linked to reproductive, neurological and development disorders, according to Environment Canada.

Improper disposal or handling during recycling can allow toxic substances to contaminate the soil, groundwater and air.

But instead of throwing electronics in the trash, the emphasis should first be on reuse then recycling, says Ifny Lachance, who runs Free Geek, a non-profit computer reuse and recycling centre in Vancouver.

"We have to get ambitious," said Lachance. "It's basically a question of harm reduction."

According to Statistics Canada, more than a third of households across the country store unused or obsolete computers and communication devices before discarding them. When they do clean house, just under 25 per cent dispose of them at special waste depots or return them to suppliers; almost one in five put them in the garbage; and just over one-third said they did not know what to do with them.

"People have this idea when you throw garbage away, it disappears and we're finding through the century a lot of things are catching up with us," Lachance said.

In Canada, e-waste is a provincial issue and most provinces are moving toward electronics stewardship programs.

Alberta was the first to implement an electronics recycling program in 2004.

Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Nova Scotia also divert some of their electronics from landfill through industry-operated stewardship arrangements.

This spring, Ontario will become the latest province to begin a recycling program for some electronics. According to the province, 27 per cent of e-waste is reused or recycled annually.

The rest is landfilled or exported overseas with "unknown environmental and human health implications," according to a report from Waste Diversion Ontario, a non-Crown corporation set up to develop and to operate recycling programs for the province.

Ontario's new recycling program will include a tracking and audit system to ensure materials sent to primary processing facilities are not transported to "downstream processors" who don't meet environmental safety standards equal to provincial requirements and international obligations, the report said.

TVs, computers, monitors and printers will be collected through charities and municipal depots and sent to consolidation sites before being shipped to approved processors.

Manitoba and Quebec also are working toward regulations to manage their mounds of e-waste.

Ottawa is also a signatory to the Basel convention, an international treaty banning the shipment of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries.

But that hasn't stopped discarded electronics from around the world from ending up in Africa or in China, where lax regulations are creating burgeoning environmental and health concerns.

Josh Lepawsky, a geography professor at Memorial University in Newfoundland and Labrador, who studies the global trade of e-waste, said there is still nothing stopping "recyclers" who are not part of the provincial systems from collecting e-waste and shipping it overseas.

"Across the country, the way the legislation is written, it more or less guarantees it is going to undermine its own intentions and create a parallel stream of waste," Lepawsky said.

"If you choose not to participate, you won't have any access to the financing being offered through the programs but you can still collect the material and sell it to brokers who may or may not be collecting a profit shipping it overseas," he said.


This is an excellent resource for analyzing media industries


Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Datum: 24.12.08 13:48
Kategorie: Diaspora-Afrika
Von: Franck Olivier
Toxic Waste in Africa: An ongoing scandal

(c) Greenpeace
From Abidjan to Accra, Northern countries get rid of their toxic waste at discount prices. Whole cargoes of industrial muds, cyanides, solvents, pesticides and electronic waste have been dumped into the countryside. The Probo Koala incident is the most recent example.
During August 2006, Abidjan, the economic capital of the Ivory Coast, was victim of a very dangerous environmental and sanitary scandal. A Greek-owned tanker (the Probo Koala) registered in Panama, chartered by a Dutch company run by two Frenchmen operating from London (and employing a Russian crew) dumped illegally 500 tons of chemical muds mixed with caustic soda, oil residues and water in various open air places in the city. The deadly gas evaporating from these sites killed 17 people and poisoned ten thousands of citizens.
In October 2008, so two years later, the first lawsuit of this affair has just taken place in Abidjan. The criminal court returned a contrasted verdict in condemning two defendants (the owner of the small Ivory Coast company which dumped the waste outdoors as well as an agent of the port) to 20 and 5 years of imprisonment but in acquitting the seven others. The most flagrant aspect of this trial was the absence of the charter company, Trafigura, in the courtroom. In February 2007, an out-of-court settlement had been reached between this multinational company and the Ivory Coast government for a 152 million euros payment. This aroused the protests of several lawyers for whom the lawsuit was « biased » in the absence of the « central witness ».
What has to be said is that, on July 2nd, 2006, the Probo Koala was in Amsterdam where it was supposed to unload its cargo. But because of the high price asked for the waste treatment which it transported, after a bend by Estonia, the ship made road southward, in search of less scrupulous subcontractors !
Old practices
At the same time, as the progressive implementation of the first environmental standards in Europe during years 1970-1980, the cost of elimination of toxic waste increased considerably during the last decades entailing the development of diverse traffics to Africa.
A chance of a lifetime for the chemical industry of the countries of the North (Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland etc.) which so found the means to reduce the elimination coasts of their toxic residues to the detriment of the health of the inhabitants of the South.
This business, in spite of the enormous logistics which it requires, benefited from the uncontrolled opening of the borders and from the support of mafias sometimes paying their « discharging rights » with cargoes of weapons, even if it means subsidizing civil wars as in Somalia. On the other side of the Mediterranean, this scandal was facilitated by the urgent need of currencies on behalf of governments already choked off by the mechanism of the debt, and, besides, often steered by autocratic and corrupt regimes.
Although they lack adequate installations of dangerous waste treatment, numerous African countries (Benin, Congo-Brazzaville, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Nigeria, Togo, Somalia and others) imported whole cargoes of toxic (industrial muds, cyanides, solvents, pesticides, pharmaceutical waste) and even nuclear waste at very low prices : between 2,5 and 40 dollars the ton against 75 - 300 dollars (prices of that time), the cost of elimination in industrial nations [1]. Irony of fate, this waste was sometimes conditioned in barrels marked « fertilizer » or even « humanitarian aid » not to attract the curiosity of the harbour authorities of host countries. Greenpeace advances the figure of 167 million tons of hazardous waste having so found a second homeland in Africa [2] before 1986. In Italy, the illegal traffic of the waste would represent, in the 1980s, the second activity of the criminal organizations, just after the drugs - a 100 million euros market per year [3]. In France, a subsidiary of the group Arcelor Mittal is suspected of having laundered million of tons of toxic waste (under the shape of fuel for tanker) between 1993 and 2004 (La Voix du Nord, September 17, 2008) but so far, no formal evidence could be found.
Tax havens in front position
These operations sometimes made the object of contracts in due form, cunningly tied up by contracting parties close to the government of the importer country. Between the producers and the subcontractors in charge of the low job operate screen companies, that act as simple mailboxes established in tax havens. As example, one of them (whose effectively released capital was only two pounds of Sterling !) was registered on the Isle of Man, managed remotely by a couple living in Cyprus, then in Gibraltar where its track was lost. In other circumstances, these operations were made without the need to negotiate a contract with the host country : the multinational companies having operating sites in these countries were able to transfer the waste to them without warning the local authorities.
Attempts for transboundary control
After several scandals in 1988, a series of international agreements were signed, supposed to regulate and even to ban the transfers of toxic waste towards the countries of the South. Created in 1989 under the auspices of the United Nations (it came into effect in 1992), the Basel Convention was the first binding international legal instrument in control of the cross-border movements of dangerous wastes and their elimination. In its first version, however it tended to legitimize a practice which should be considered a criminal activity. But in 1995, an amendment was adopted to put a definitive term in the exports of dangerous waste in countries that do not dispose of adequate installations. Besides, a series of regional agreements were signed, among them the Bamako Convention. Its field of application also extends to radioactive waste. Unfortunately, on 166 signatory states of the Basel Convention, three countries – Afghanistan, Haiti and the United States (reluctant at the idea of taking back on their territory the dangerous waste produced on their military bases in the Pacific) have still not ratified it ; this inevitably strikes a blow at its universal character.
The e-waste : an announced disaster
Today, waste traffic gives itself a more respectable face but the victims could indeed be even more numerous. When current laws are not violated, one tries to by-pass them… So, today, in the name of recycling, the western countries continue to send hazardous waste to Africa and Asia when its treatment is considered too polluting or little profitable. We all have in mind the image of ships at the end of life (such as the Clémenceau) making road towards South Asia to be dismantled there. With less media coverage, the « recycling » of waste of electric and electronic equipments (better known under the abbreviation D3E) in South Africa, in Nigeria or still in Ghana. [4], is equally dramatic.
At first sight nevertheless, some people saw in the re-use of computers or mobile phones, still in working order, a way of reducing the digital gap between the North and the South. A « win-win » formula allowing some to get rid of mountains of electronic waste whereas the others, too poor to be able to buy new equipments re-use old ones, so offering them a second life. Regrettably, an inquiry of the NGO Basel Action Network in Nigeria contradicts this version : 75 % of the imported second-hand computing equipments are not economically repairable nor saleable. Then, having been dismantled to extract precious metals, these equipments join unchecked discharges where they are burned, notably emitting dioxins, organo-chlorinated compounds and heavy metals, and so contaminating the air and the soil. In the name of recycling, we so achieve exactly the contrary of what the world community tried to forbid with the adoption of the Basel Convention !
What about the future ?
Certainly, these last years, things are changing in Europe and important progress was made to treat the famous D3E in the North. But as long as the European governments will continue to ignore them, these traffics towards Africa risk to remain. The problem comes at first from a lack of means : On 1100 cargoes checked in 2006 within a European inquiry’s framework, 50 % were illegal. The French Office central de lutte contre les atteintes à l’environnement et à la santé publique (OCLAESP ; Central Office against infringements on environment and public health) recommends to intensify controls as well as a better collaboration between the different European national police forces. However, the fact that in 2008, a company implanted on the Isle of Man still escapes the application of the European directive on the control of the transboundary transport of wastes shows that control is incomplete.
And although a project of a new directive for environmental protection (which would allow to consider grave infringements on the environment as crimes, following the example of the Agreement of Palermo on organized crime) is on the right track in the Parliament and in the European council, as long as islands having certainly nothing paradisiac will continue to escape such laws, you can bet that the smartest ones will continue to get through the stitches of the net.
Suggested further Reading
Trafigura en Offshore by Rafik Houra in Billets d’Afrique N° 174 nov.2008. Dossier special de Billets d’Afrique sur les déchets toxiques (4 articles) No 151, Octobre 2006 : http://billetsdafrique (Translated for Survie IDF by SS/ revised by Isabelle Rousselot, Bayonne)
Note : For the original version of this article as well as other commentaries please consult the French Billets d’Afrique rubric of this website
[1] Les vaisseaux du poison – la route des déchets toxiques , François Roelants du Vivier, edited by Sang de la Terre, 1988.
[2] POPs persistent organic pollutants in Africa : hazardous waste trade 1980-2000. Obsolete pesticide stockpiles. A Greenpeace inventory, Johannesburg 2000.
[3] Trafic d’armes et de déchets toxiques. Les déchets de mort à l’ombre de réseau “Gladio Stay behind.” Enrico Porsia, 2003.
[4] Chemical contamination at e-waste recycling and disposal sites in Accra and Korforidua, Ghana , Greenpeace research laboratories technical note, Octobre 2008.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Opportunity to read a useful report from the Total Environment Center here

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Sustainability is the Elephant in the Room, CIO Says

Dec 5, 2008, By Corey McKenna

Photo: Electronic waste is a global issues communities can't continue to ignore as discarded electronics swamp the developing world.

Green is the new green. Green is good. Amid these tough economic times, individuals and organizations across America are finding ways to be good to the environment while being good to the wallet. But information technology, a powerful engine of the U.S. economy, is expected to grow and continue to produce as much green house gas as the airline industry-even when fewer people are traveling. "We're expecting the information communications technology sector will increase its emissions by 150 percent-that's business as usual if we don't do anything," Shell Culp, CIO California Department of Toxic Substances, told state technology workers during a session on sustainability at the Best of California 2008 program last Wednesday.

"If we increase our activity in technology, we're actually putting more planes in the air, essentially, from a global CO2 emissions standpoint," And that doesn't include the energy used in manufacturing the technology. "So we're not as green as we would like to think we are.

"Our biggest benefit is going to be helping other parts of our economy reduce their environmental footprint. So we do have a very large role to play enabling efficiencies in other sectors."

A recent Forrester survey found that 40 percent of businesses believe protecting the environment is very important, while 50 percent of respondents incorporate environmentally-friendly criteria into their purchasing requirements. According to the same survey, 80 percent recycle information technology products at the end of their life.

The top three reasons for organizations focusing on greening IT are reducing energy use, protecting the environment and using the greening process to align IT with business strategy.

"Business as usual is unsustainable. We're running out of power, we're running out of space, we're running out of budget," Culp said.

In a Gartner survey of strategies for greening information technology, only two strategies concerned anything outside the data center. Yet, only 25 percent of the session attendees at the Best of California held Wednesday in Sacramento, worked in a data center.

Desktop energy management and desktop virtualization are two strategies strategy agencies can use as they look to improve their carbon footprints. And that makes sense because desktop computing accounts for 45 percent of global carbon emissions from information technology.

Using desktop virtualization to push hosted desktops to thin clients has several benefits including reducing costs, improved security and disaster recovery and the potential for a longer product life cycle, according to a spokesperson from Wyse Technology, a maker of thin computing devices. Reed Managed Services, based in Britain, deployed thin clients in establishing a new office in Australia. "We've managed to reduce our carbon footprint by 2,500 tons in 2006 and a similar amount in 2007" with the help of thin clients, Sean Whetstone, head of IT services at Reed Managed Services, said.

But that's not the only strategy. There are plenty of ways to make an impact on the carbon footprint of desktop environment that Culp said are "especially kind of easy." These changes are "people-focused" and "they need to recognize they need to have that focus," she said, and agencies "need to build some people systems to monitor and measure [efforts toward environmental sustainability] ... and sustain that activity."

But defining a green IT strategy is eluding the state so far, Culp said. There are some efforts at the statewide level, but agencies should also look at developing a strategy for themselves, she said. "We need to establish a baseline, use some metrics that are realistic and then, of course, we need to buy green IT products and services, which we get lots of help with the Department of General Services and the focus on Energy Star equipment."

Strategies for Sustainability

* Put someone in charge of "green" in your organization.
* Build some enthusiasm in the workplace around the initiative.
"When you're thinking about building enthusiasm in the workplace, don't overlook some of the things that are important to your employees," Culp said. Additionally, agencies can harness the energy of younger workers by asking them to solve important issues-such as worker health and indoor air quality.
* Telework--"Use more laptops. Those are actually cleaner than any of the desktops at this point."
* Buy green.
* Collaborative technologies (such as real-time remote video conferencing) can help reduce emissions by reducing travel.
* Implement an environmental management system.
"That's the old adage--you can't manage what you can't measure." To help with that, the International Standards Organization has compiled ISO standard 14000-1 for managing an agency's environmental footprint.
* Put more government services online.

Electronic waste (i.e. discarded monitors, computers and cell phones) is a huge problem.
People in the United States throw away 130,000 computers a day while over 426,000 cell phones are deactivated each day. Energy waste is the fastest growing component of municipal waste and "we have to do better as administrators," Culp said.

She highlighted a 60 Minutes segment that focused on the recycling of electronics and how that waste actually gets dumped in a second or third world country.

Think Holistically
"How can your individual agency look at their greenhouse gas emissions or their materials consumed or their water contamination?" Culp challenged the audience.

Technology companies will have to make products that don't pollute. "We have to make sure we have identified a products next use before it gets sold so that we don't have waste," she said.

If agencies don't know how to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, they will soon, Culp said. There are already several tools available that can help an agency calculate its carbon footprint, and there will be more shortly. Additionally, "AB 32 suggests government will lead the way in understanding how this will be rolled out to the private sector or to the rest of the state."

The question the state's technology professionals have to ask is how can IT help reduce agencies' consumption of materials and water and reduce human and environmental risks? Culp believes the key here is to use geospatial technology more effectively.

"It will be your IT systems that help us" arrive at a more sustainable future, she told the audience.

Culp noted that the California Environmental Protection Agency is in danger of losing certification on. "We have an audit periodically about how well we are doing with our environmental management system-and it is not good at all. And we are the state's environmental agency," she said. "So I understand it is going to be difficult for state government to do better at this. We're having a hard time getting our act together."

Culp has plenty of war stories and lessons learned she could share. "And it's all around sustaining the effort. It's all around identifying the resources, picking somebody to be the green steward and then giving them the authority to get down to it," she said. "It's all a people thing. Get people off the road, take government to them and sustain that effort," she urged.

Friday, December 5, 2008


E-waste recycling scores big at China's Challenge Cup
By Emma Ritch
Published 2008-12-02 08:27

A student-led team from the Jiangsu Teachers University of Technology secured 60 million RMB ($8.8 million USD) in venture capital investment for its work in the Challenge Cup, a business plan competition by China's Ministry of Education, China Association for Science and Technology and National Students Union.

The Jiangsu team developed a system for recycling electronics waste, or e-waste. The spin-off company has been named Jiangsu Xiangyu Resource Recycling Tech.

The investment comes from Jiangsu Xiangyu Kejiao Investment, which invests in real estate, technical services and logistics services.

The team took home one of six VC prizes totaling 160 million RMB. The team also garnered one of 120 silver medals at the sixth biannual event.

The Challenge Cup requires participants to make an integrated, detailed business plan
with good prospects for venture capital investment. The competition has helped its entrants secure 420 million RMB in VC investment from 1999 to 2008.
Source URL:


New Focus on E-Waste Drives Higher Standards

Kristin Espeland December 3, 2008, 5:00 am | Email this to a friend

This February, TV goes digital. That means many Americans may decide to toss their older televisions in favor of new digital models. And many might be hauling those old sets to a local recycler, like Commonwealth Computer Recycling. CCR’s West Louisville warehouse is packed with old TVs and computer monitors…unwanted keyboards and clunky hard drives. With the old Atari set in the back, it’s like a visual history of our nation’s consumption.Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“Course this is just sheet steel….These are power supplies…You’ve got drives here….”

These are some of the piles and piles of components owner Jim Shields has stripped from old computers. Some contain valuable commodities he can sell, like the strip of gold on a circuit board. Others contain toxic materials too dangerous to handle here. Take the stacks of old computer monitors. Their screens contain pounds of powdered lead.

”This is our nemesis. This is the one that challenges most people, challenges the industry quite frankly. But there are people out there that can dispose of it properly,” says Shields.

There are no laws compelling Shields to recycle these monitors responsibly. The process is expensive. And since commodity prices for everything from steel to plastic have fallen, his profit margins are even slimmer. Shields could easily send a truck full of the less profitable items to the landfill. Or he could take the big checks some foreign recyclers might write him. They offer to buy up everything he’s got and ship it home for processing in a way that may not be so environmentally friendly. But he doesn’t.

“There’s a cost to protect human life, there’s a cost to protect the water we drink, there’s a cost to doing that when we’re dealing with these toxins. And if you’re being offered a great deal of money for these materials, those fail-safes are not being paid for, those precautions are not in place,” Shields says.

Image courtesy of Commonwealth Computer RecyclingThat could soon change. With no federal legislation on the books, independent organizations have taken it upon themselves to develop standards for handling e-waste. Barbara Kyle coordinates the Electronics Take-Back Coalition. She says the Environmental Protection Agency is just now developing some standards for e-waste recyclers. And the Coalition was advising the agency. But recently, Kyle says they withdrew from the process because they didn’t agree with the EPA’s direction.

“Unfortunately, they just really didn’t end up setting standards at a very high bar, and even refused to consider some issues that the environmentalists at the table thought were important issues,” says Kyle.

The development of a national infrastructure to handle electronics recycling might be one issue. Jason Linnell founded the National Center for Electronics Recycling. He says until that’s in place, individual states have been stepping in with their own laws and recycling programs. For instance, Massachusetts bans anything with a cathode ray tube from landfills. And Illinois will soon ban landfills from accepting any electronics.

“We just had an explosion of laws at the state level in the past two years, in 2007 and in 2008,” Linnell says.

Non-governmental organizations like the Basel Action Network, or BAN, are tackling the other side of the e-waste problem: the export of potentially toxic e-waste. BAN will introduce the country’s first independent accreditation program for e-recyclers. The idea is that a recycler’s process can be audited by a third party so consumers can be sure their old TVs and computers are safely dismantled and not dumped on a third world country. Linnell says that with new state laws and these independent efforts, the momentum for stronger standards is underway. Image courtesy of

“The confluence of the state laws coming on line, the export issue getting more interest, and not to mention the transition to digital television will create a lot more interest in the issue of recycling,” says Linnell.

Linnell and others believe federal e-waste legislation could be coming next year. Until then, there’s no sign the stream of used electronics is drying up. Back at the Commonwealth Computer Recycling warehouse, Jim Shields explains:

“We as consumers tend to want what’s next, what’s next, what’s next.”

…Unless what comes into your warehouse is a mint condition Atari 2600 with a Frogger Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commonscartridge. That one, you keep.


Wondering what to do with replacing your FAT-screen TV with a FLAT-screen one?

Toshiba wins a prize--here's their press release

Toshiba's REGZA (R) TV Wins First-Ever PC Magazine GreenTech HDTV Award

Last update: 12:30 p.m. EST Dec. 4, 2008
WAYNE, N.J., Dec 04, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- WAYNE, N.J., Dec. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Toshiba America Consumer Products, L.L.C. ("Toshiba") announced that PC Magazine, a leading technology publication delivering authoritative, labs-based comparative reviews to more than 6.6 million technology buyers, has selected Toshiba's 42XV540U REGZA LCD TV as its first-ever GreenTech Approved HDTV. According to PC Magazine's tests, the 42XV540U exhibits low power consumption and solid energy efficiency for a 42-inch LCD.
"Television manufacturers are faced with a gauntlet of regulatory hurdles before a new product can be offered to consumers. With high energy prices and ewaste at the forefront of consumer's minds, PC Magazine set out to determine which HDTVs are the greenest," said Jeremy Kaplan, Executive Editor at PC Magazine. "Toshiba's 42XV540U really rose to the top of our tests with its low power consumption and solid energy efficiency."
To merit a PC Magazine GreenTech seal, not only does a television need to excel in the area of energy-efficiency, but both the hardware and the manufacturer are taken into consideration. Although the 42XV540U was deemed environmentally friendly on its own, Toshiba's TV earned the seal in part because Toshiba, as a company, is working to minimize waste and reduce energy consumption.
"We are extremely excited to receive this recognition from PC Magazine," said Maria Repole, AVP Corporate Communications at Toshiba. "Toshiba is making sustainability a priority and is striving to manufacture environmentally friendly products, without sacrificing picture quality, in order to deliver true value to consumers. We see this award as further testimony to our efforts and commitment to environmental responsibility."
The GreenTech Test
To evaluate the efficiency of HDTVs, PC Magazine based the core of its benchmark methodology on ENERGY STAR latest guidelines, including common usage scenarios and methods for obtaining measurements. TVs were also rated on their energy efficiency and certifications. For more information on the judging criteria, please visit
Toshiba is also part of Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Management Company, LLC (MRM), who recently launched a National Recycling Initiative for electronic products. Established as a joint venture by Panasonic Corporation of North America, Sharp Electronics Corporation and Toshiba America Consumer Products, LLC, MRM will develop and operate a national take-back and recycling program that is open to all manufacturers. The joint venture company has been set up to serve the needs of electronics manufacturers who will be responsible for take-back of products under new electronic waste recycling laws, as well as the needs of consumers for convenient access to electronic recycling opportunities. For more information, please see .
Toshiba's premium REGZA LCD TV line fulfills Toshiba's commitment to offer consumers both value and leading-edge technologies for an amazing home entertainment experience. The REGZA line features a variety of screen sizes and offers premium picture quality for every lifestyle. Toshiba's XV and RV Series offer up to 1080p resolution and feature PixelPure 4G 14-bit internal digital video processor, with 16,384 levels of gradation, creating a more natural picture without image banding. In addition, PixelPure 4G enhances color and increases contrast, creating a superior picture. All of Toshiba's Fall 2008 REGZAs are also Energy Star 3.0 compliant. For more information on Toshiba's full line of REGZA models, please visit
About Toshiba America Consumer Products, L.L.C.
Toshiba America Consumer Products, L.L.C. is owned by Toshiba America, Inc., a subsidiary of Toshiba Corporation, a world leader in high technology products with subsidiaries worldwide. Toshiba is a pioneer in DVD technology and a leading manufacturer of a full line of home entertainment products, including flat panel TVs, combination products and portable devices. Toshiba America Consumer Products, L.L.C. is headquartered in Wayne, New Jersey. For additional information please visit

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


TOKYO (Nikkei)--The government plans to start requiring, probably in 2009, mobile phone carriers to collect old handsets so that rare metals can be recovered from the devices, it has been learned.The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of the Environment are considering making it mandatory for mobile phone service providers to take such steps as placing collection boxes at all sales outlets and introducing equipment that disables phones to prevent personal information from being leaked after the handsets are discarded. Under the new regulations, the names of companies violating the rules would be made public and such firms would be subject to fines. The ministries will also likely require mobile phone makers to design handsets so that they are easier to recycle. In addition, the government will consider having local governments collect old digital cameras on a trial basis.

From this Sunday's Nikkei

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


You can find it here

“E-Waste: Elephant in the Living Room.” Flow 9, no. 3 .