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Electronic Waste Goes to Developing countries

Categories   Liberal Arts Personal Thoughts
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      Imagine this: In order to go to pay your tuition, you have to pick up valuables for reselling in landfills every day. Many rich countries, including Taiwan, illegally export their electronic-wastes to poorer countries to deal with. This makes these countries become recycler’s dump site extensions. We should recycle electronic wastes decidedly, or they will destroy our Earth. I will focus on three major negative impacts of electronic waste: How does it harm , local environment, global economy and the local worker’s rights.

1. Effect on the Environment

      Improper disposal of e-waste has bad impact on the Earth. Most of e-wastes contains toxic materials such as lead, zinc, nickel, chromium. After being deposited in landfills, the toxic materials contaminated land, water and the air. In the documentary “Toxic City in Ghana”, a German expert stated “The recommendations of WHO of lead in part of soil is 100. And in here there are 3000 of them.” Besides, Mijke Hertoghs of UN’s ITU indicated that developed countries that signed the Basel convention have their own recycle system, while in many countries don’t. In Ghana, waste-pickers who live next to landfills are inevitable to suffer from infertility, miscarriage, tumors, endocrine diseases and birth defects. To sum up, without formal recycling system, the environment will be devastated by e-wastes eventually.

2. Effect on Global Economy

      E-wastes that buried in landfills leads to globally economic loss. A UN report indicated that every year, at least 10 billion dollars’ worth of precious metals are dumped. The total value of these is estimated at US$47 billion, which is greater than GDP in most countries. But another report said that only 17.4% of 53 million tones was recycled in 2019, just $10 billions of precious metals were recycled. This leads to $47 billion economic loss and lots of precious metals. In short, e-wastes that are not properly recycled can harm global economic to some degree.

3. Violations of Local Workers’ Rights

      Rights of e-waste recyclers who are exposed to dangerous toxins are sacrificed. E-waste industry in developing countries is a surviving matter. Because of the lack of formal recycling system, 40% of workers who work in landfills in Ghana are children. While in India, about 35,000 to 45,000 children involving in “waste-pickers”. What’s worse, workers do not have technologies to process e-wastes in a responsible manner. Men and children use primitive skills to extract metals. Thus, they are more likely to develop chronic diseases. Plus, only a little they will earn from reselling precious metals. In Guiyu, China, e-waste pickers earn $1.50 a day, according to ILO’s report. In brief, worker’s rights in developing countries were not guaranteed because of informal recycling system.


      In conclusion, we should recycle e-wastes more aggressive or they will destroy our Earth. People should know what will their electronic devices go, and who and what will be affected. First, e-waste disposal in improper way will damage the Earth. Second, e-wastes that are not recycled are great waste of resources. Third, e-waste pickers’ rights got violated in the toxic working environment. Just like Pam Shoemaker once said “When you put the whole picture together, recycling is the right thing to do.”



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