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FRONTLINE / World Dumping that PC for an iPad?

April 15, 2010

VIEW: Why you maybe want to think twice about that...

A team of graduate journalism students at the University of British Columbia sleuthed this story, tracking for months America's e-waste and where it's ending up.

This clip shows what becomes of e-waste sent to China, where it's big business. Fifty to eighty percent of America's e-waste -- supposedly collected for "recycling" -- ends up in developing countries like China.

View the full report here. FRONTLINE/World's site also offers more background on this story.



I have seen a similar piece about this on current TV's Vanguard series. Excellent dipiction of how this e-waste becomes a health hazard.

Lisa Adams / August 3, 2009 4:06 PM

This story shocked me. Next time I have to get rid of a computer, I will do the dismantling and smashing myself.
Frontline always brings the most comprehensive and compelling news.

D. Jackson / August 5, 2009 3:11 PM

I know the CBC (Canada) did an exact same story of how e-waste is being sent to China in mass numbers.

Jackie Chan / August 5, 2009 4:12 PM

I had seen the television report on Your Digital Trash? I find this horrific and I am wondering what I can do to alleviate sensitive information like tax return, (possibly medical information like electronic files) from getting into the wrong hands? Must we insist on retrieving this information from our computer hard drives?

Christopher Bayne / November 26, 2009 8:25 PM

I work for a computer charity in the UK. We look at reuse, by local people and charities who can't afford a computer before destruction. We wipe hard drives securely and separate usable items from waste and use our local recycling plant for stuff we can't reuse. We take a small donation from people dropping stuff off, its not a free service (we pay the recycling plant). Even though we now have laws in the EU about electronic waste many people have taken personal responsibility for how they get rid of old equipment. The upside is huge, volunteers learn how to rebuild systems and install software, local groups and poor families get a good PC, our reclamation partner recovers 90% of materials, plastics, minerals and metals. If you need to get rid of electrical waste use a local charity and be prepared to pay a small donation, its well worth it.

S. Marshall / November 29, 2009 9:13 AM

I agree the current report on ewaste is verry good.
Here it is: http://current.com/shows/vanguard/76355482_pollution-to-protest.htm

M. McCall / April 15, 2010 7:36 PM

China sends us tons of CRAP every day... It's only fair that send some of it back! Cry me a river. --this is old news by the way.
I'm just so tired of the "we know best" environment crowd dictating how they think other people should live their lives. OH NO "It's not sustainable" we're all gunna die!!
Guilt ridden Chardonnay sipping leftists who really FEEL it.

Wayne / April 16, 2010 12:58 AM

but that cat playing with the iPad is sooooo worth it.

J. Price / April 16, 2010 4:47 PM

I think Wayne either lacks a grasp of the point or is flexing sarcastically. The story illustrates that a level of ignorance, denial and convolution keep consumers assuming value is made off disposed electronics and peripherals. I didn't hear a right or wrong in this clip; "we're all gunna{sic} die!!" Was there a person drinking white wine, or political preference of conservative government intervention or liberal government intervention? If anything it shows the the lack of intervention and the reality of free market.

Torbach / April 17, 2010 12:53 AM

our course china has no epa nor osha. old news.dont buy any electronics nor car batteries if this vid shocks you too much. china undersells evrything coz there are no laws. period. no worker protection. period. and india allows its men to manufacture asbestos items with totally no protection either. india. asbestos.
dont buy, or dont complain bout it.

jle / April 17, 2010 6:43 PM

The US government should require all computer sellers to pay for the disposal of materials.

Kewalle / April 17, 2010 9:51 PM

Wayne, it has nothing to with leftists or right wingers.

Ethically no one can stand by while WE take part in harming the health of others, even if they are a world away, nor can we stand by an contribute in the exploitation of said people by those in power. China is infamous for its civil rights violations and, guess what, it not just some "leftist" saying that it is the ENTIRE civilized world.

Now that I've indulged Wayne who probably posted just for the attention.

S.Marshal, do you operate in the US or know of any such charities in the US? I've been trying to find groups that dispose of computers without sending it to such despicable operations in third world countries and I really could use some help.

Karegador / April 18, 2010 7:59 PM

S. Marshall's description of the computer charity in the UK is similar to the operation at NextStep Recycling in Eugene, Oregon. (nextsteprecycling.org). Check them out; perhaps you can get something started in your area.

Dave / April 19, 2010 12:28 AM

Thank you so much Wayne, I've always wondered why I've felt so out of touch with my peers: I, like yourself, have been drinking PBR all my life. Spending Sundays flipping the only coin in my possession to decide whether it will be Sunday at the Shop-n-GO/Church of Christ with my 310 lb wife, or, Nascar on the big screen down at the Cletus's Lynchin' Post whilst wearing my only steak blood stained wife beater that my cousin/ex-wife bought me for Confederate Heritage day. And to think, all this time it should have been sippingChardonnay with my pasty, free-trade coffee drinking, college professor, anti-life, pro-death, Prius driving, Birkenstock wearing friends at the monthly PBS vegan luncheon. That's a load off my mind!

Todd / April 19, 2010 11:20 AM

We have developed an innovative approach to e-waste that tackles three problems at once. Re-Use of old PCs and UBUNTU to empower the less fortunate, using at-risk youth as the labor force - TEDxCreativeCoast - Murray Wilson - eWaste and the Social Landfill http://bit.ly/bDu4hM

murray / August 30, 2010 11:55 PM

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