Last night’s CBS 60 Minutes segment was about electronic waste in China. They showed a film crew attacked by gangsters in Guiyu, China and reporter Scott Pelley incredulously referred to the village – a hub for illegal e-waste recycling – as “the most toxic place on earth.”
The 60 Minutes crew captured scenes of women burning circuit boards over open coal fires and using acid baths to recover copper and other precious metals. Unfortunately, these scenes don’t differ much from the film SVTC shot on India that will premier this Saturday under the title: “Citizens at Risk: How Electronic Waste is Poisoning India’s Pathway from Poverty”.
SVTC and the Basel Action Network were also in Guiyu in 2001. Despite more than 12 states passing e-waste recycling laws and numerous accounts of similar horrendous recycling activities in India and throughout Africa, the situation has worsened in the past 7 years. The account of the situation by the Government Accountability Administration – cited in the 60 Minutes episode – testifies to the eroding condition of enforcing e-waste laws and how our government is turning a blind-eye to the issues.
Keeping e-waste in the U.S. would create more American jobs and put pressure on product manufacturers to reduce the amount of toxins they put in their products and design electronics to be easily recycled.
The George W. Bush administration has failed to ratify the Basel Convention and stop U.S. e-waste from leaving our borders.
Like most in the U.S., I am inspired by the recent presidential election and the prospect for change in US environmental practices at home and around the world. Recyclers in India, Africa and Asia have hopes and dreams and see recycling as a means to improve their lives. I am incredibly optimistic that we can change ewaste recycling from an illegal and dirty activity to green jobs in the U.S. and abroad.
To watch the documentary film from our investigation of e-waste in India, please join us this Saturday, November 15th at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose, Ca. More info at: svtc.org/event2008