I continue the story of e-waste that my group presented in class. We analysed the documentary “Manufactured Landscapes” and explored the manufacturing/consumption cycle: developing nations constantly manufacture products to feed the insatiable appetite of the developed world, only to have all the wastes dumped back on them after consumers were done with the products. Out with the old and in with the new (more on this later). The developing world then, becomes a factory and a landfill for the developed world. At every juncture of the cycle, even in transportation (as Cody showed on Google Earth the miles of abandoned old cargo ships), toxicity leaks out and strikes at those who are already poor and disenfranchised. The damage done to the environment and to public health is grave, and this should be apparent especially if you’ve watched the documentary. Of course, like many people, if you haven’t seen these sobering sights and sounds, all this toxicity and environmental injustice would be invisible – out of sight and out of mind.

What might a responsible, ethical person in a developed country do? One action, as the video clip below from 60-minutes shows, is recycle the e-waste responsibly, send them to high-tech, quality controlled, properly regulated domestic recycling centres. Surely with all the social and legal structures in place to protect workers, compared to the adverse conditions of workers in say, China, we should be directly helping ourselves and indirectly helping the e-waste recyclers in China. Right?

Take a look at this news story and decide for yourself:

One thing 60-minutes mentioned about seven minutes into the news story is 7 out of every 10 children in the town of Guiyu, the most toxic Chinese recycling centre, have too much lead in their blood. Now picture your local neighbourhood having 7 out of every 10 children with the same lead poisoning as these Chinese kids. What do you think the public would say about this? These poor people in developing nations don’t have a voice. The worse part is, this isn’t a problem they brought onto themselves. We, the developed world, exported the problem to their countries. This is our doing. And as the government’s sting operation revealed, about 50 so-called recycling companies are doing the very same thing they are publicly condemning – dump our load on others. The scenario is simple: farmers cannot make a living farming but are financially better off ‘recycling’ and poisoning their kids while trying to put food on the table. We have put them on the spot to choose between poverty or poison. Still not convinced we are part of the problem?

Watch this commercial from BestBuy: