Dumping on Africa Again

Much of the used computer equipment sent from the United States to developing countries for use in homes, schools and businesses is often neither usable nor repairable, creating enormous environmental problems in some of the world's poorest places, according to a report to be issued today by an environmental organization.

Unusable equipment is being donated or sold to developing nations by recycling businesses in the United States as a way to dodge the expense of having to recycle it properly. While the report, written by the Basel Action Network, based in Seattle, focuses on Nigeria, in western Africa, it says the situation is similar throughout much of the developing world.

"Too often, justifications of 'building bridges over the digital divide' are used as excuses to obscure and ignore the fact that these bridges double as toxic waste pipelines," says the report. As a result, Nigeria and other developing nations are carrying a disproportionate burden of the world's toxic waste from technology products.

According to the National Safety Council, more than 63 million computers in the United States will become obsolete in 2005. An average computer monitor can contain as much as eight pounds of lead, along with plastics laden with flame retardants and cadmium, all of which can be harmful to the environment and to humans.

1 comment:

ambimb said...

This phenomenon exists in a legal world minature version, too: The clinic I work in has two good-sized offices crammed pretty much floor to cieling with obsolete computer equipment -- CPUs, monitors, keyboards, mice, and more -- that have been "donated" by big firms in the city. Most of these "generous" donations are obsolete and barely-functional crap the day they arrive at the clinic, and then it becomes the clinic's responsibility to figure out how to dispose of the junk. I guess the clinic accepts these donations b/c it usually gets a couple of usable machines out of the deal and it also has learned to salvage certain parts (e.g. network cards) that can be used in other machines or sold on ebay or whatever.