Tonight was the official presentation of ‘The Digital Dump’ at the UNAFF documentary film festival, at Stanford University. I had invited Ted Smith, from Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition to join. As it turns out, Ted is an old friend of Jim Puckett, the director of the film, who was also present. Jim had just come back from the E-Scrap 2007 North American Electronics Recycling Conference, where he had the occasion to meet people from the industry, 80% are recyclers only by name. Dumpers would be a more accurate description, since all they do is ship the ‘recyclable’ goods abroad, without checking first that these goods are indeed recyclable, and not simply destined to waste. A big part of the problem is the fact that the United States, unlike Europe, has not signed the Basel Convention, under which member countries commit to strict controls for their e-scrap exports. Ted Smith mentioned the astronomical number of chemicals involved in the production of computers, over a thousand, and the need to also clean up production processes, not just recycling.
The abuses take place in other countries as well, not just Africa. I found this video from the Asia Society, ‘E-Waste: Dumping on the Poor’. Just as horrifying as ‘The Digital Dump’, only this time it takes place in China.
What to do? Here are two most important responsibilities as a consumer:
- Buy green computers
- Dispose green
You can also become an activist and lobby your congressman and senator, to pass a bill in support of the Basel Convention. Last night, was one more time when I felt ashamed to be an American. Thank God, I have my French side to redeem me.