Toxic Technology contaminates e-waste recyclingyards in China and India
By Greenpeace International
Edited by Federico Ferrero
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Beijing, China, 17 August 2005
Greenpeace International today released a report of its’ scientific investigations into the hazardous chemicals found in the scrap yards where electronic waste is recycled in China and India. The results from analysing the dust from workshops, as well as wastewater, soil and sediment from local rivers show conclusively that all stages in processing the e-waste enable toxic chemicals, including heavy metals, to be released into the workplace and into the surrounding environment.
“The report provides a compelling case for immediate action in both countries to address workplace health and safety issues, as well as waste management practices,” said Dr. Kevin Brigden, a Greenpeace International scientist, who collected the samples. “The data reinforces the need for the electronics industry to eliminate the use of harmful substances in their products at the design stage and take responsibility for their products at the end of their lifecycle.”
The release of the report, “Toxic Tech: Recycling of electronic wastes in China and India: workplace and environmental contamination", comes a few days after the European Directive on Waste from Electrical and Electronics Equipment (WEEE) came into effect on 13^th August (1). The directive, which regulates the handling of e-waste in the EU region by making electronics producers responsible, has yet to be implemented in many EU countries. Despite an EU ban on exports of hazardous waste, including e-waste, to developing countries, there is increasing evidence of e-waste being sent to Asia from Europe illegally (2). The majority of the waste being exported to Asia comes from the United States (3).
Concentrations of lead in dust samples collected from some workshops in China were hundreds of times higher than typical levels of household dusts. The levels of lead in dust collected from similar workshops in India were approximately 5-20 times background levels (4). Contamination was not limited to the recycling yards; dust collected from the homes of two e-waste recycling workers in China had higher levels of heavy metals, particularly lead, compared to dust collected from one neighbouring house with no link to e-waste recycling.
Samsung, Nokia, Sony and Sony Ericsson have made commitments to eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals such as PVC and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in the manufacturing of their products (5). LG Electronics is the latest to join the list of companies in committing to substitute these harmful substances with safer alternatives.
“With the most recent commitment of LG, the five ‘first in class’ companies in the electronics sector with 55% share of the global mobile telephone market and Sony, which is the leader in the electronics industry, show that it is possible to make electronic equipment without the use of these hazardous substances and still remain profitable”, said Zeina Alhajj, Greenpeace International Toxics Campaigner.
Other companies like Dell, IBM/Lenovo, HP, Siemens, Acer, Toshiba, Panasonic, Fujitsu-Siemens and Apple have so far, failed to commit.
A copy of the report is available from www.greenpeace.org/toxictechreport
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