Author Topic: Electronic Waste and its Associated Problems  (Read 6001 times)

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Offline AntiProtonBoy

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Electronic Waste and its Associated Problems
« on: October 03, 2011, 02:13:11 pm »
This topic has always interested me and worried me. For that reason I practically never throw out old equipment I can help it, and always attempt to fix it, if possible.

Recently, SBS TV showed an interesting story about how e-waste is dumped to countries, such as Ghana, resulting in a health and an environmental disaster in those places. Original video below:

http://www.sbs.com.au/dateline/story/watch/id/601347/n/E-Waste-Anger

Fairly disturbing. Some key points:

* People like you and I donate old equipment to charity organisations, presumably with the good conscience thinking the stuff will go to a good home, etc.

* The aforementioned organisations are inundated with TVs, VCRs, computers and other obsolete equipment, not knowing what to do with it.

* Along comes a buyer wanting to pick up all the stockpiled equipment, and charity organisations are more than happy to get rid of them.

* The equipment is piled into containers and sneaked through customs, straight into places such as Ghana, etc.

* The stuff is torn apart, burned in Ghana to extract copper and other precious metals. The entire place is up in toxic smoke, with heavy metals and other trash leaching into the soil. Pretty nasty.

* Only a small fraction of the exported equipment is actually used as intended in Ghana. This is the only positive thing I've seen. Poor people get access to computing technology cheaply.

* Another worrying aspect, there are shops over there with stockpiled hard drives, for the sole intention to recover deleted data. The information is then sold off, presumably for fraudulent purposes.


Other videos related to e-waste:

E-Waste in India - Short documentary



The question is, what is the best solution for e-waste? And where should we attack the problem? At the point of manufacture, or at the point of disposal?
 

Offline saturation

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Re: Electronic Waste and its Associated Problems
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2011, 03:31:41 pm »
In the end, its disposal, ie., recycling.  But manufacturing should also construct parts with some concern for easing recycling and reducing environmental impact.   Although that is Ghana, you see the same in China and other parts of the developing world.

You can extend use, reuse, but inevitably all old tech gets thrown away.   I salvage old electronics and reuse the parts I find for one off projects.


The question is, what is the best solution for e-waste? And where should we attack the problem? At the point of manufacture, or at the point of disposal?
Best Wishes,

 Saturation
 

Offline Rufus

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Re: Electronic Waste and its Associated Problems
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2011, 04:28:44 pm »
Yes it is disgusting.

We exporting scrap to 3rd world countries where people risk their health to make a living by recycling it.

We must stamp out this disgusting practice and let those people starve and die healthy.



 

Offline AntiProtonBoy

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Re: Electronic Waste and its Associated Problems
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2011, 05:23:55 am »
Yes it is disgusting.

We exporting scrap to 3rd world countries where people risk their health to make a living by recycling it.

We must stamp out this disgusting practice and let those people starve and die healthy.
Guessing by your sarcasm, I suppose you have absolutely no qualms about the long term environmental and tje hereditary conditions the population can suffer from these "recycling" practices?
 

Offline saturation

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Re: Electronic Waste and its Associated Problems
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2011, 10:12:26 am »
People all over the world reuse trash, one person's trash is anothers gold, it doesn't have to be 3rd world.

In the USA, my love for electronics will have me hunt in the trash; that's where I get over 1/4 my parts.

Others find food:
http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2011/09/27/dumpster-diving-waste

Formally, the act in the developed world is called dumpster diving.  For food, any good restaurant will unload its entire daily fresh cooked food into the trash by closing time, usually 11p-1am; bakeries dump the entire days load by 4pm, usually by 1pm, most half price all their bread and cakes. 

Electronics assembly plants don't dump their waste or lost PCB anymore because of hazmat restrictions.  So for electronics its mostly in consumer waste or dumpsters in large apartment complexes.

In the 3rd world, most folks have already taken all that is possibly reusable in their trash, so 1st world trash is like gold to them.

The real issue is the byproduct of the trash, for food its the potential for illness, for electronics is the potential for contamination, if you don't know how to salvage it properly.  If its salvaged properly and the final waste disposed off the contamination is reduced, but not eliminated.  Lare colleges and Universities have very good trash: furniture, lab equipment all first rate, often changed because the students dorms empty and its cheaper to dump than transport or grant cycles end and new equipment have been approved in the budget, all old are simply dumped.
Best Wishes,

 Saturation
 

Offline david77

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Re: Electronic Waste and its Associated Problems
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2011, 02:56:27 pm »
Even though it is disgusting to see how they recycle our rubbish in 3rd world counties, I don't think it would be
right to tell them "No, you can't have that, you're methods are not environmentally friendly.".

I mean they try to find a niche where they can make some sort of a living, who are we (the developed world) to tell them
what to do? After all, 50 years or more of us interfering in the matters of the developing world has not done much good.
The people in developing countries need to show some initiative of their own and here they do, even if it is in a way that
we maybe don't agree with. Maybe they need to make their own mistakes? The western world has had to learn how you
can treat your environment and how not. Not too long ago we had rivers and lakes that were so toxic nearly nothing could
live in there right here in the middle of Europe.


 

Offline Rufus

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Re: Electronic Waste and its Associated Problems
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2011, 05:28:47 pm »
Yes it is disgusting.

We exporting scrap to 3rd world countries where people risk their health to make a living by recycling it.

We must stamp out this disgusting practice and let those people starve and die healthy.
Guessing by your sarcasm, I suppose you have absolutely no qualms about the long term environmental and tje hereditary conditions the population can suffer from these "recycling" practices?

Not nearly as much as I do about incredibly ignorant 1st world pricks pontificating about how 3rd world people should live their lives. Maybe they should go live in a 3rd world shit hole (where you really do shit in holes) and be hungry and watch your children die of dysentery because you don't have $5 for medicine, if they didn't already die of malaria because 1st world pricks decided the thickness of wild bird eggshells was more important than controlling the mosquitoes killing your children.


 

Offline Lawsen

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Re: Electronic Waste and its Associated Problems
« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2011, 05:56:02 pm »
In California, e waste is often collected at recycling centers for 2 to 30 cents per pound.  Their fate is unknown.  It could be piled into a container and shipped to China, India, or Bangladesh for separating and breaking.  If you could endure of not having the latest cellular telephone or computer that is slightly slower or feel left out, when your neighbors and friends have the trendy and latest, then just using what you have, until no spare parts available like batteries and power supplies.  Do we really need an Android OS telephone?  What is wrong with your G4 Macintosh or Pentium 4 solo core computer?  You could keep viewing the giant glass tube screen television, no benefit of the giant LCD panel TV, unless you have Blue Ray discs. 

http://www.eenews.net/public/climatewire/2011/04/22/2

http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/hazardouswaste/ewaste/
 

Offline PStevenson

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Re: Electronic Waste and its Associated Problems
« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2011, 08:05:08 pm »

I'm in agreement with SATURATION, I get alot of my parts from old things like TVs, VCRs and other things like that, I have got a big shed in my garden full of what I like to call "unprocessed" stuff - everyone else calls it "junk" but what the hell.

I set aside a day every month to just pull components from these things, stick on a few films while I do it and it's quite enjoyable to just let the brain rest for a while, I even keep the PCBs for prototyping ideas on.
old TVs are great for power resistors.

I hate throwing electronics away and will only do so when I'm sure it can't be reused (so I don't end up on a hoarder show)
a cool thing to harvest parts from is those energy saver lights, you can make so many cool things from one of them, the best thing I made from one with no additional (electronic) parts is an overdrive effect for my guitar
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Offline saturation

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Re: Electronic Waste and its Associated Problems
« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2011, 08:18:37 pm »
There are many US based recyclers, here is one example:

http://www.newtechrecycling.com/disposal/computer-disposal/PC-disposal.html

When dumpster diving, one of the common 'strike gold' finds is a biomedical grade device, often the pots are multiturn Bournes! Salvaging just one with a snipper and pliers will make your day  8), each one today is worth $20-40 each.
Best Wishes,

 Saturation
 

Offline nukie

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Re: Electronic Waste and its Associated Problems
« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2011, 03:47:54 am »
Such a waste, as a kid, I learned what sort of 'goods' from tearing them apart. From there I learned what they do and how they work. These days we hardly find electronic scrap in developed countries. Have to learn from books, no more hands on skills.  ;D

This is India they receive these monitors and printers by the tonne. In China where recycling is more established, computer motherboards, gaming console, mobile phones, and higher grade electronics are being torn apart and recycled. You can find many 'used' IC chips in the local electronics market.
 

Offline AntiProtonBoy

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Re: Electronic Waste and its Associated Problems
« Reply #11 on: October 05, 2011, 04:18:26 am »
Not nearly as much as I do about incredibly ignorant 1st world pricks pontificating about how 3rd world people should live their lives. Maybe they should go live in a 3rd world shit hole (where you really do shit in holes) and be hungry and watch your children die of dysentery because you don't have $5 for medicine, if they didn't already die of malaria because 1st world pricks decided the thickness of wild bird eggshells was more important than controlling the mosquitoes killing your children.
It's not so much telling the third world how to live their lives, it's more about the fact that first world pricks capitalise on treating these places like a dumping ground, or a source of human exploitation. There is a good reason why e-waste dumping in first world countries is prohibited. I wonder what your opinion would be if the said waste would be pure chemical or low-grade nuclear in nature? Would it be still ok export, simply because the aforementioned countries don't have the legal facilities to regulate such activities? What you also failed to take into account is whatever happens abroad could also potentially affect us globally. That said, I'd have no problem with e-waste processing in poorer countries if such practices were management under better conditions.
 

Offline AntiProtonBoy

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Re: Electronic Waste and its Associated Problems
« Reply #12 on: October 05, 2011, 04:37:15 am »
Anyway... I was meant to start a constructive discussion on this topic, perhaps more engineering oriented, as opposed to political. I mean, we have to resign to the fact that controlling such activities is nearly impossible, nor practical to do. Societies will use whatever economical method to extract valuable materials from waste, which in this case is burning.

The question is, how practical it is to create products that not only aids recycling but also alleviates recyclers from using hazardous methods to process them? Or perhaps the solution is to set up safer recycling infrastructure in these countries?
 

Offline ciccio

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Re: Electronic Waste and its Associated Problems
« Reply #13 on: October 05, 2011, 09:47:49 am »
I've my garage full of recyclable PC parts, some still working but no more up-to-date for performance or unusable with newer operating systems. I could build 10-20 PC with them.
I kept storing them due to my laziness against carrying them to the Electronic Waste collection center and obviously  I do not want to put them in the garbage (we know that it is forbidden, but everyday I see big TVs or big refrigerators into or on side of the waste  bins, even if  the Municipality waste treatment will collect them for free, with a simple phone call, but people is too lazy for calling)

Many times I ask myself: why do we engineers design products that are so difficult to repair, or with a programmed obsolescence designed-in (such as 1/8 W resistors that will heat up and break after 4-5 years)?
Why it is becoming unpractical to repair things (no service manuals, no spare parts)?
Why it is so difficult to find a reasonable efficient repair lab?

I've lived in Africa and I see that people there will try to repair, before putting in the waste.
And many times I and my wife had a phone repaired, for a small sum, when the Italian service center said it was non-serviceable.

Some friend said that there is a simple economic reason: electronic products are too cheap: they should cost 10 time their present price, and be built with a different mentality.
Maybe he is right...
Ciccio

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Offline saturation

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Re: Electronic Waste and its Associated Problems
« Reply #14 on: October 05, 2011, 01:31:41 pm »
Today, quite practical, there is a full movement already ongoing.  For recyclers, in the US, its dominated by both coasts, and the key has been the price of gold and other metals, as it rose, so did its increasing practicality.

From a design perspective, the act of making components, designing a PCB, then assembly does generate a lot of chemical byproducts.  The key 'R's of waste management remains:

reduce
reuse
recycle

Don't buy more than you need, or throw away what still can be used.  From a design perspective, design with as little parts as possible, don't rube goldberg your designs.

Alas, many projects by hobbyists are fun but will be mediocre at best, or useless at worst, so if you really want to build a good item say a PSU, you should buy and mod it, don't build it from scratch, its more eco-friendly because a well designed commercial product could already have parts and design optimized.

For students or hobbyists learning how to build different circuits, don't build it for permanence if cheaper and often better versions are commercially available, build to learn then disassemble and reuse the parts. 

For pro designs, I'm designers are aware of the cost benefits of using SMT and PCBs proportionate to the volume of product made, as well as the trade off of building without a PCB and using larger components [ up to through hole] , or dead bug assembly, for low volume items.

For truly obsolete items, can it be reused?  For our perspective maybe in terms of parts [ I mean how much can you reuse a 300 baud modem?] : LEDs, wires, connectors, chips, components.  Finally recycle the remains properly.

Cellphones are a high turnover item, as was PCs yesterday.  That is the trend in design [ you see it in compact digital cameras, kindles, iPads and laptops too], very little in it can be reused once obsolete as to achieve its sizing and efficiency, the human UI and electronics are all highly integrated.  Since the casing & switches wear after use, once deteriorated, the electronics are difficult to reuse as the design is tightly bound to the UI.  Likewise, devices that use FPGA, ASIC, uC etc., are very customized to support the programmed chip; its rare to reuse these chips or support electronics, so in the end the solution is recycling.



The question is, how practical it is to create products that not only aids recycling but also alleviates recyclers from using hazardous methods to process them? Or perhaps the solution is to set up safer recycling infrastructure in these countries?
Best Wishes,

 Saturation
 


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