NYT reports 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. The report, titled "The Digital Dump: Exporting Reuse and Abuse to Africa," says that the 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.
What they should do is provide the equipment to a computer refurbishing project like HelpingTulsa. We identify what is refurbishable, refurbish it, and provide it to schools, churches, ane non profit agencies, both in the Tulsa area, and all over the world. But it is material that is working when it leaves Tulsa. Also for projects that need a large number of computers, we also try to provide training and computers to do the refurbishing so that if something stops working once it gets overseas, they can refurbish it again there. We did that in the case of 40 computers headed for a literacy project in Africa, and 200 computers headed for Belarus, Russia, and plan to do that with a number (currently 225, but possibly about to grow much larger), that a sister operation in Nebraska has planned for the Southern SudanWhile 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.... In 2002, the Basel Action Network was co-author of a report that said 50 percent to 80 percent of electronics waste collected for recycling in the United States was being disassembled and recycled under largely unregulated, unhealthy conditions in China, India, Pakistan and other developing countries. The new report contends that Americans may be lulled into thinking their old computers are being put to good use. At the Nigerian port of Lagos, the new report says, an estimated 500 containers of used electronic equipment enter the country each month, each one carrying about 800 computers, for a total of about 400,000 used computers a month. The majority of the equipment arriving in Lagos, the report says, is unusable and neither economically repairable or resalable. "Nigerians are telling us they are getting as much as 75 percent junk that is not repairable," Mr. Puckett said. He said that Nigeria, like most developing countries, could only accommodate functioning used equipment.
And unless they know what they are doing, the equipment should not be sent there unless it is functioning. When we get a used computer, we refurbish it if it is operational, but if it is not, we strip it for parts, which are then used to fix other computers. Bad parts are separated out and sold to companies that will recycle the gold and other precious metals in the machine, and the plastic and metal cases are sold to companies that will recycle the plastic and metal. This could be done overseas if they have the technology to extract the precious metals, and the ability to use the plastics, metal, etc that results from recycling a machine, but if they don't, then it should be recycled here in the US, and only operational machines should be sent overseas.Brett Frischmann blogged Why recyle and better yet build machines that last longer and are comprised of more easily recycled materials when we can just “donate” our junk to developing countries.