How much of our waste gets shipped to other countries?



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    One type of waste that is shipped out of the US is toxic computer waste. As much as 50% to 80% of computer waste that is collected as recycling is actually shipped out of the US and is placed in a landfill in a third world country. Read the article for more information. Hope this helps!

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    “Eighty percent of all the scrap electronics in the United States end up offshore and usually in Third World countries,” said Bob Glavin of Chicago , who runs one of the biggest recycling plants in the country.

    “I honestly believe there’s a secret brotherhood that ships this stuff over there late at night when no one’s watching, because none of our competitors do it, but it’s all over there,” he said.


    Waste Dumped Abroad Is Rarely Recyclable or Reusable

    Glavin and his son used to export some of their scrap to China, until they went there and saw for themselves what happened to it.

    “There was no environmental regulations. There’s no safety regulations. There’s no data security, because it’s not being recycled over there. It’s being dumped over there,” he said.

    “We don’t send our trash to China. Why should we send the electronic trash to China?” his son, Jim added.

    Jim Puckett, coordinator of a group called Basel Action Network, which monitors exports of hazardous waste, also saw what was happening in China firsthand. Three years ago he documented it in a video called “Exporting Harm.”

    “What we witnessed was these former farmers cooking circuit boards over little wok-type operations over little coal fires and melting the chips so they could pull them off. These chips would then go to acid strippers using very dangerous acids, dumping all the waste from the process into the river, and that acid process was to extract the tiny bit of gold that was in those chips. It was quite a cyber-age nightmare,” he said.

    Much of this stuff came from the United States, yet U.S. authorities did nothing. Frustrated, Puckett’s group released a second report this past year, this time from Nigeria, where they found the same thing.

    “Everywhere there’s space — empty lots, swampy areas — they’ll throw the cathode-ray tubes, the computer carcasses, the plastic housings and routinely set them ablaze,” Puckett said.

    Puckett says his group saw dusty warehouses piled high with computers and components exported from the United States and Europe, supposedly bought for Nigerians to fix and use.

    According to Puckett, however, “About 75 percent of what they were receiving was not repairable, not usable and was simply dumped and burned in the landfills of Africa.”

    That’s what’s happening to many of the old computers we get rid of. They’re sent overseas. We’re simply exporting a huge environmental problem.

    “The recyclers that are shipping over there certainly know what’s going on, and it’s good business,” said Lauren Roman, an electronics recycler and an expert on the hazardous chemicals found in household electronics.

    Still, some recycling brokers “20/20” talked to insisted that sending the machines abroad helped get computers into the hands of societies that need them.

    Roman disagrees with that. She said lots of companies should call themselves waste exporters instead of recyclers. And she showed “20/20” just how easy it is to pass yourself off as a responsible recycler.

    You can simply print out a certificate declaring yourself an Environmental Protection Agency-certified recycler.

    It’s that simple, according to Roman, “because there’s no such thing, but you can claim it because most of the recyclers out there are.”

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