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The launch of Microsoft Vista may initiate a massive wave of computer obsolescence. Where do we put all the refuse? Take a guess…

i-a96bc836e0c4e05d7bf0367126be58e3-wires.jpg

Guiyu, China

These women are picking through computer wires that have been exported to rural China for disposal. Once sorted, the wires, insulated with PVC and coated with brominated flame retardants, will be burned and emit carcinogenic fumes (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and dioxins). That’s why we export them.

According to the Basel Action Network, a toxic-dumping watchdog group, more than 50% of obsolete computers are exported to developing countries either whole or dissassembled, where they are processed and disposed of in ways that would violate environmental standards in the First World.

For a list of electronics recyclers who can help keep your computer out of a burn pile, click here or here.

Image: © Basel Action Network 2006.

Comments

  1. #1 SMC
    February 6, 2007

    Or, offer it to a local Linux nerd, who may happily replace the old computer’s operating system and give it many more years of productive service…

  2. #2 Peter Lund
    February 6, 2007

    Once sorted, the wires, insulated with PVC and coated with brominated flame retardants, will be burned and emit carcinogenic fumes (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and dioxins).

    Isn’t that mostly due to incompetent burning? As far as I know, temperature is the key. If the temperature is high enough you don’t get any dioxins.

    (I’m from Denmark where we burn almost all household trash before storing the “ashes” in landfills — it takes up only about 10% of the space that way — and the burning has been made surprisingly non-polluting.)

  3. #3 Sarah Dasher
    February 7, 2007

    Isn’t that mostly due to incompetent burning? As far as I know, temperature is the key. If the temperature is high enough you don’t get any dioxins.

    I have to assume that the abovementioned is not the sort of place where they enforce responsible burning. Indeed, I’m just speculating, but I expect that’s one of the main reasons they’re exporting all that waste…

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