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Why Junk Electronics Should Be Big Business

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the return-them-in-michigan-for-twice-as-much dept.

Businesses 155

An anonymous reader writes "We've heard before about the problem of e-waste — computers and other high-tech gadgets that are tossed into landfills or shipped off to third-world countries when they reach end-of-life. But this article makes the case that there's a huge business opportunity here, with billions of dollars going to waste in the form of metals that could be reclaimed from these old and broken devices. 'At current rates of production, $16 billion (or 320 tons) in gold and $5 billion (7500 tons) in silver are put into media tablets, smartphones, computers, and other devices annually. With growth in demand for smartphones and media tablets showing little sign of diminishing in the next few years, the flow of gold and silver from deposit to waste facilities is only likely to accelerate. ... StEP claims that, in developing nations, 50 percent of the gold in e-waste is lost due to "crude dismantling processes" and only 25 percent of the remainder is recoverable due to the rudimentary technology to hand. In contrast, 25 percent of gold is lost to electronics dismantling in developed nations, and modern facilities are able to recover 95 percent of the rest.'"

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Yeah the money may be good (1)

jaymemaurice (2024752) | more than 2 years ago | (#40683465)

Except the enviornment implications of even modern reclaimation will likely create a superfund site

Re:Yeah the money may be good (4, Interesting)

jaymemaurice (2024752) | more than 2 years ago | (#40683487)

I'd also be curious as to know what is meant by "lost" and how they plan to deal with the tons of arsenic, beryllium and other crap in our e-waste

Re:Yeah the money may be good (2)

jaymemaurice (2024752) | more than 2 years ago | (#40683503)

And also, I am curious if it's more practical to remove valuable metals from the ewaste or the equivilant weight nothern canadian in glacial deposits.

Re:Yeah the money may be good (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#40683629)

Presumably if that crap is in the waste then electronics manafacturers put it there and needed to buy it from somewhere. Pity there isn't a CERN style organisation with the requisite international funding to could come up with a profitable all in one recycling plant that can recycle more than just the easy to get at metals.

Re:Yeah the money may be good (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40683697)

Australia must be the dumbest country of all.
Bans the export of batteries etc, but charges $120-250 ton for landfill.
Everything should roll into a smelter, and you get these primary leftovers.
1) Metals incl rare earths
2) Flock (Plastic rubber, and nonmetal crap)
3) Lots of Glass if doing TV picture tubes or cars
4) Lots of lead (considered nasty) and evil.
5) Smoke and fumes
6) Large electricity bill + Carbon Taxes + 10% Fed Gov Tax
7) No cheap way of getting rid of flock, and no 'credits' or tax deductions for recycling.

Broadly recycling is D.E.A.D because some committee decided to raise a new tax on new electronic goodies, and figure the greenies got a good feeling, because burial brings in new taxes (new landfill taxes).

Re:Yeah the money may be good (3, Informative)

mirix (1649853) | more than 2 years ago | (#40683985)

I wouldn't think there is much Be in e-waste. I know it was used in BeO insulators, but they are quite rare. I'd think these days it is mostly relegated to aerospace - things like that where you just can't compromise.

AlN is supposed to be pretty close in performance, so even that may be moving out.

For arsenic, it's only used in semiconductors AFAIK, like GaAs and GaAsP LEDs, some fast transistors, etc. But in all of these cases, it's a crystal (and generally epoxy encapsulated), so I'm not sure how much arsenic would leach from it. I Suppose powder from mechanical damage and possible thermal (from reclamation process? or incineration) decomposition products would be considerably more problematic, though.

Keep in mind these would be in pretty minute quantity compared to the (historical at least) asston of lead on every board. Even the copper is fairly bad for aquatic life, IIRC. (seem to recall that humans can process it, but it bioaccumulates in marine life, like various heavy metals do to us).

Re:Yeah the money may be good (5, Interesting)

kevmitch (2220314) | more than 2 years ago | (#40683679)

Non rhetorical question: How much worse is mining and processing the equivalent ore?

Re:Yeah the money may be good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40684353)

On Earth, or in space? In the not too distant future, this may be a valid point.

Re:Yeah the money may be good (2)

sohmc (595388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684395)

It's not so much whether something is worse but whether something is more profitable.

As far as know, there aren't easy ways to get these rare elements out of electronics. The ways are expensive per device. It suffers the same problem as recycling did back in the 80's. The technology wasn't there to automate it.

I imagine that it's much simpler and easier (thus more profitable) to find the raw materials in the earth and then mine them. That technology is around now. But actually reclaiming the metals from existing devices that are getting tinier and tinier, meaning the amount of raw materials used it smaller.

I'm not a scientist or geologist or whatever, so please feel free to correct my ignorance.

Re:Yeah the money may be good (1)

andrew2325 (2647845) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684855)

They use leaching to get some of the gold off of it. It's expensive to leach, but back in the later 1990's, I had a teacher who said never to throw the things away for a couple of reasons. 1. Arsenic and whatnot in them. 2. Gold connectors. It's probably best if you can to keep someone of them around and not tamper with them much, especially if they work. Eventually museums would probably inquire around the web looking for specific antique models that still work.

Re:Yeah the money may be good (1)

andrew2325 (2647845) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684877)

Also, there's the everyday use aspect. The economy may fall into a deep depression, and people may end up having to made do with 486's at times. That sounds insane, but it happens now.

Prices (1)

ColdCat (2586245) | more than 2 years ago | (#40683479)

Recycling is not only Gold and silver there are many other toxic components in our hardware.
and it certainly cost a lot to safely remove all of them.

Re:Prices (4, Interesting)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 2 years ago | (#40683555)

Noble metal refineries can out multiple components from ores and make a profit. Materials are enriched in our gadgets when compared to ore. I'm sure there is actually money to be made here.

Re:Prices (2)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684249)

True, but they would then be responsible for the waste left over.

Re:Prices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40684739)

There is today because of the very high gold price, but a few years ago before the gold bubble, it wasn't. At least for western world counties to do it. Gold isn't rare, it makes no difference if tiny amounts end up in other countries.

Re:Prices (1)

moeinvt (851793) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684771)

"Materials are enriched in our gadgets when compared to ore."

True, but ore doesn't contain all the hazardous chemicals that exist in electronics. Dealing with the nasty by-products (i.e. safely) is going to be the major expense in this business. As the article describes,

"...the widely-reported practice of burning cables and printed wiring boards to recover the metals they contain..."

Releases all sorts of carcinogens and other toxic chemicals. I cringe just to think about it.

IMO, the only way to make this business work, say in the USA, is a "pay for disposal" fee or to have something like a bottle deposit added to the purchase price.

Re:Prices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40685317)

"...the widely-reported practice of burning cables and printed wiring boards to recover the metals they contain..."

Releases all sorts of carcinogens and other toxic chemicals.

Heat everything to the point it is just a cloud of plasma, then run it through an industrial scale mass spectrometer and recombine it into pure separated elements!

Re:Prices (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40685905)

This was actually proposed, decades ago. The plan was to make it economical by venting a portion of the plasma stream directly out of a tokamak into the recycleable materials. There isn't a material built that wouldn't vaporise instantly on exposure to raw fusion plasma, and the hydrogen fuel is cheap (The process would produce hydrogen as one of the output elements that could be fed straight back into the reactor). The plan failed because no-one was able to make a tokamak fusion reactor that actually worked properly.

Re:Prices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40685929)

Heat everything to the point it is just a cloud of plasma, then run it through an industrial scale mass spectrometer and recombine it into pure separated elements!

The plasma part is already done: http://www.recoveredenergy.com/ [recoveredenergy.com]

Re:Prices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40685883)

True, but ore doesn't contain all the hazardous chemicals that exist in electronics.

Indeed, there's all sorts of toxic stuff in electronics, like cadmium. Good thing there are no hazardous chemicals in ores, like zinc ore.

Well, except for cadmium.

Dangerous chemicals aren't really an issue (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 2 years ago | (#40685885)

Meh, true. But such refining processes typically deal with loads of elements anyway, and they use strong acids to extract stuff out, or to create an electrolyte or so.
What nasty by-products are you talking about anyway? And how are those produced now?

Regarding to the whole recycling: it's all a matter of scale. A really large process will create large enough waste streams that it is worth it to purify those too.

Re:Prices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40685839)

There are already Western organizations recycling these materials...

Check out Free Geek [wikipedia.org] . They use volunteers to recycle what they can, and dismantle the rest into their component parts. To cover the costs of the facilities, they sell the extracted materials (metals mainly) to other companies.

It is probably better for the world as a whole to have organizations doing this, rather than some profit seeking companies extracting what they can and dumping the rest.

Yeehaw! (5, Funny)

jpate (1356395) | more than 2 years ago | (#40683533)

There's gold in them thar fills!

Re:Yeehaw! (2)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684811)

That's funny but also a good point. Landfills are just temporary. We fill them up with things that aren't worth recycling. But someday when material prices get high enough it make make economic sense to mine the landfills. A smart owner would at least try somewhat to segregate the waste to different pits so that they are easier to mine.

In the not so distant future recycling will be done at a molecular level and this will all go away.

Stupid article (5, Insightful)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 2 years ago | (#40683553)

Yeah, there are millions of tons of gold dissolved in the Pacific Ocean. "going to waste" too.

Not a single figure in TFA to say how much it would cost to recover a few grams of gold from each device. Or what toxic sludge would be left and how much it would cost to deal with that.

People dealing with e-waste KNOW THERE IS GOLD IN IT. They're not idiots. If they could recover it and make a profit, they'd be doing it. They don't need some twat to tell them "Hey, you're throwing away gold!".

Re:Stupid article (2)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | more than 2 years ago | (#40683723)

Exactly.
The main problem is that there are so many models of iStuff and e-stuff that it's impossible to standardize the process of recovering valuable parts of it.
Planned obsolescence is a bitch, and we're only beginning to understand what the related problems are.

Ooooohhh, shiny! The new Panasonic DMC-LX7 is out, with a new sensor and a 24mm f/1.4 lens? Let's ditch my shitty LX5!
What was I saying?

Re:Stupid article (1)

quadrox (1174915) | more than 2 years ago | (#40683801)

Thanks for reminding me, I gave away my old LX3 to my brother since I didn't use it much after I got my DSLR. But now this LX7 looks quite nifty indeed!

Re:Stupid article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40684829)

It's a lady's camera.

Re:Stupid article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40685401)

It's a lady's camera.

Arr, you got women's camera my lord! I bet that camera never had to flash the passing ship to draw their attention to a shipwreck raft!

Re:Stupid article (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40685923)

The main problem is that there are so many models of iStuff and e-stuff that it's impossible to standardize the process of recovering valuable parts of it.

Actually, there is - grind the stuff to powder, and separate all the interesting bits chemically.
 
There's two main problems with this process however... First, there's very little interesting bits in any given device, so unless you're a high volume operation it's impossible to recoup your capital costs. Second, overall it's an expensive process due to all the toxic chemicals and waste and the large amounts of energy required, so it's a very low margin operation.

Re:Stupid article (2)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684027)

Old electronic scrap is big business already.

But what holds it back is not as much the recovery technology, but the labour needed to collect and dismantle the scrap. Collection is a major issue actually, as this scrap appears all over the place. There is no "gold mine" type concentration, it has to be scavenged from households - and most have such waste only now and then.

Re:Stupid article (1)

jafiwam (310805) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684569)

We need to inject the idea that e-waste collection is worth it into the Meth-heads. Then households just gotta take the stuff to the curb and let the skinnies pick it up.

Heck, legalize Meth at the drop off stations and let them buy and use (can't carry) the stuff there. Problem solved over night.

The real problem with this is back-end user fees. I bet someone doing a little research could show how much of that stuff gets serendipitously stashed in the garbage stream by someone left with 3 CRT monitors of unuseful size left by dead grandparents in their basement. People won't pay $150 to get rid of three screens to some hippy-deluded municipality to haul that shit away. They just put it in the dumpster at the Quickie Mart late at night.

If there are disposal fees, they have to be UP FRONT and when the purchase is made. Then, anything that was made before the fees started needs to get grandfathered too.

"Recycling" the shit is a non fucking starter if people have to pay to get it done. Especially if they SEE and FEEL the payment personally.

Re:Stupid article (1)

ATMAvatar (648864) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684645)

That depends on the area. My city council organizes electronics recycling events several times a year, which takes in an increasing amount of old equipment. The last event net somewhere between 3-4 semi truck trailers full. The city does it to slow our landfill growth, and the business they partner with does it precisely because the large concentration of electronics collected in one, short event makes it profitable for them.

Re:Stupid article (1)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 2 years ago | (#40686005)

E-waste is being recovered on a large scale. Anything looking like a circuit board is simply added to the copper refining process. All the precious metals are getting amalgamated into the raw copper, and recovered during the copper refining process. The problem is not the reclamation of the material once it has been collected, but the collection and dismantling processes. The only way to get a decent return rate is by either making it mandatory to drop off stuff at a recycling center or by offering incentives in the form of returnable deposits. Neither way is foolproof, the former leads to illegal dumping, the later to items being stolen just for the deposit. Dismantling is mostly done by running stuff through a shredder, followed by manual sorting. This is inefficient, leaving lots of value on the sorting band and adding a lot of scrap to the recyclables. True dismantling would be ideal but is unaffordable unless having third-world labor. Export to China etc would be desirable if not for the question of toxic side products; while the US and Europe can recycle all toxic materials as well, it is cheaper to just dump them if you are operating in a low-regulation country. An alternative is to dismantle thermally by pyrolysing the plastic material to collect just metals and glass filler, but the economics on that are strongly depending on fuel prices and metal value, and changes in precious metal content can quickly take it from a highly profitable process to a money-loosing venture.

I know one company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40683569)

Umicore, but I'm sure there are more...

protect the environment is our obligation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40683631)

As we all know,the environment had damaged badly. We should try our best to protect the environment. www.shoopobd2.com

Re:protect the environment is our obligation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40684055)

I'm out of points, somebody mod this spamming assfuck twatface -1 Troll

thankyou

Ron Paul is the new Sarah Palin (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40683641)

How appropriate.

At least Palin knew she was a stooge. I have a worrying feeling that Paul still takes himself seriously.

Re:Ron Paul is the new Sarah Palin (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40683699)

I broke all protocol and read the article just to see if Ron Paul was mentioned. He wasn't. Are you suggesting he should be recycled for his gold content?

Re:Ron Paul is the new Sarah Palin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40683709)

Well surely if he has any say in the matter (which he won't) then the price of gold will skyrocket.

Geeks don't throw away junk ... they hoard it. (5, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#40683667)

C'mon, y'all 'fess up! Your e-waste never becomes e-waste, because it is stuffed into drawers, closets, basements, or the rusty Chevy up on cinder blocks on the front lawn, like me. It could be a magnetic storage disk with the diameter of a Flying Saucer, and I still won't throw it away. That 'ole PCMCIA IBM Token Ring card? I'll be glad someday that I have that bastard!

Hans Reiser proved his own guilt when he claimed that he threw away his car seat.

Geeks don't toss out nuthin'!

Re:Geeks don't throw away junk ... they hoard it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40683859)

Haha, so VERY true. Admit it. You spied on my dwelling!

(except for the Chevy)

Re:Geeks don't throw away junk ... they hoard it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40684285)

No, but the FDA is watching you.

Re:Geeks don't throw away junk ... they hoard it. (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684239)

I get rid of anything I don't think I can sell, except cables. Every single time I get rid of a cable I end up needing it.

Re:Geeks don't throw away junk ... they hoard it. (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 2 years ago | (#40685979)

I used to save cables. Then I gave a VGA cable to a friend. He connected his laptop to his TV. It worked fine for an hour. Then I left him to it.

The next day he was pissed. The TV had stopped displaying pictures. He'd mashed the remote a billion times trying to get it to work. He'd fucked all the defaults.

It was obviously all my fault.

The cable was old and broken. I felt guilty enough to buy him a brand new one.

Friends don't give friends cables.

Hoarders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40684287)

Well,
          Actually, this morning, as "I was walking to my truck, I look at the pile of interface cards for an old 500K hard drive (97 lbs or so) and think, "I'm never going to actually get to this project; it's been more than 20 years. I should clean this up". I pick them up, walk halfway to the trash can, halfway back and admire the hard drive controller made with 7400 series chips. I can't do it. I guess I need to pass it on and open up some room in the garage for kids junk instead of adult junk.

Re:Geeks don't throw away junk ... they hoard it. (1)

tqft (619476) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684331)

Any offers for my LS-120 superdrive?

Re:Geeks don't throw away junk ... they hoard it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40684385)

USB or internal? USB would make for an awesome server boot disk. You could store drivers for entire racks on easily-updatable boot media.

Re:Geeks don't throw away junk ... they hoard it. (1)

tqft (619476) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684539)

Internal unless you have an external IDE connector

Re:Geeks don't throw away junk ... they hoard it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40684677)

C'mon, y'all 'fess up! Your e-waste never becomes e-waste, because it is stuffed into drawers, closets, basements, or the rusty Chevy up on cinder blocks on the front lawn, like me. It could be a magnetic storage disk with the diameter of a Flying Saucer, and I still won't throw it away. That 'ole PCMCIA IBM Token Ring card? I'll be glad someday that I have that bastard!

That's not hoarding! That's just a recognition that one big pile of e-waste is better than two little piles.

Sure, in 1985, 8-bit ISA cards with IBM bubble memory was available at every corner computer store, but in 2012, it's a little hard to come by. I'm sorry, PolygamousRanchKid, but we're gonna have to play it again whenever I can figure out how to make an Arduino talk to this old Casio keytar:

You can get anything you want at Natalie's Surplus Shop [slashdot.org] . (Bring the grits!)

Re:Geeks don't throw away junk ... they hoard it. (1)

Chatsubo (807023) | more than 2 years ago | (#40685753)

Yeah but you're always glad on that idle sunday afternoon when you suddenly realise having a character LCD would be "so cool" for the thing you happen to be hacking together, you walk to the cupboard to find there's one just sitting there... begging to be ripped out of that old equipment.

I often keep old/damaged stuff around just for assorted LED's, switches, connectors, etc. etc... The point is neither the cost nor the time. It's that I never anticipate that random moment I'm going to realise I need it. That's the worst moment to NOT have something.

Many are going to Nigeria (4, Interesting)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 2 years ago | (#40683669)

I saw a very nice documentary the other day showing what happens to a lot of our electronic waste. A fair share of it is shipped to Nigeria! There, people repair all the devices they can and sell it in a huge street market, the largest electronic market in the world. This means that a huge lot of electronic devices get to be used again instead of polluting the environment, and all the Nigerians have cheap cell phones, laptops, TVs and DVD players. Stuff that we consider outdated, they use with pride. One man's trash is another man's treasure.

We in the West are too pampered for our own good. I have a huge 16:9 CRT TV that works perfectly. I don't know anyone that still uses CRTs. I won't waste my money on an LCD TV before my current set breaks down. But most of people I know ditched perfectly good TV sets to replace them with LCDs. The same with cell phones, laptops, and even fridges, washing machines, or even cars!

Even when the devices don't get a second life, I can't believe it's cheaper to dig millions of tons of rock to extract metals and other shit than it is to recycle our trash. I don't know about the USA, but here in Europe we recycle most of our waste. Be it paper, plastic, metals, fluorescent bulbs, all kinds of oils and fats, electronic devices, everything gets recycled.

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (3, Informative)

acidfast7 (551610) | more than 2 years ago | (#40683803)

As fellow European, I think you need to really think about your statement: "we recycle most of our waste." What really constitutes recycling of an electronic product? My guess is that it goes to a European "recycling firm" and gets exported to a Chinese/Indian "recycling firm", which then sends it to a Chinese/Indian village for possible gold/silver extraction and minimal labor cost. The remainder of the product just lies in a pile in the village ... or is buried in the village. I'm sure that it makes you/us feel all shiny inside to say you/we "recycle" something but the only difference is where the wasted end product ends up.

Also, I lived in Stockholm until 2010 and was still using Bang & Olufsen BeoVision CRT every day because the picture was hard to beat :D

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (4, Interesting)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 2 years ago | (#40683823)

I can't believe it's cheaper to dig millions of tons of rock to extract metals and other shit than it is to recycle our trash.

The problem in the US is that complying with the myriad environmental regulations, which were passed to protect the environment, makes the cost of dealing with all the toxic compounds that are produced and/or freed during the process of a high-yield-percentage recycling program, especially for electronics, exceed what they can recover.

Unintended consequences are a bitch.

Strat

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (2)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684053)

The problem in the US is that complying with the myriad environmental regulations, which were passed to protect the environment, makes the cost of dealing with all the toxic compounds that are produced and/or freed during the process of a high-yield-percentage recycling program, especially for electronics, exceed what they can recover.

That also happens for mining and industry. That's why we outsource them to third-world countries, where people work in the most wretched conditions for a shit pay and dump all the waste in the environment. It doesn't get any cheaper than that. Out of sight, out of mind. However, it may appear to be cheaper, but in the long run, it will bite us in the ass eventually, as always.

Now, we have two options, we can drop our environmental and labour regulations and live happily in a festering shithole, or we can demand those poor countries to abide to safety and environmental standards. The industrial processes to recover valuables from waste are pretty young. They should have a huge lot of room to improve. The processes to extract valuables from ore have centuries of improvements to stand on.

Unintended consequences are a bitch.

That's what I'm talking about.

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (1)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684325)

Now, we have two options, we can drop our environmental and labour regulations and live happily in a festering shithole, or we can demand those poor countries to abide to safety and environmental standards.

So in this case, the US should force it's values on other countries?

Also, you don't think there is any middle ground for reducing or better thinking our current regulations?

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (2)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684505)

So in this case, the US should force it's values on other countries?

Absolutely NOT! When has the US done anything like that???

You can choose what you buy, can't you? The other countries are free to choose, if they want to produce stuff that damages the environment, they can sell it to anyone else.

Also, you don't think there is any middle ground for reducing or better thinking our current regulations?

No I don't. Current regulations are not even enough. Economical activities use the environment as if it was free. It's not. It provides extremely valuable services, without which human life would not be possible. As in any trade activity, those services have a cost. You can't imagine a sane economy where suppliers are not paid for, can you? That would make my business extremely efficient, if my supplies were given to me for free. But such a model will hit a stonewall in no time.

I'm baffled by the blatant hypocrisy of the right-wing. They tell me that working people should stop whining and be entrepreneurial, because anyone can become a millionaire if he faces any problem as an opportunity, blah, blah, blah. If "entrepreneurs" are so brave and valiant, they will "enterprene" no matter what difficulties they find. At least that's what I hear all the time. Why do they whine so so much, then? According to the right-wing, people have no right to socialised healthcare, social protection, labour rights, consumer protection, anything. But corporations should have all the free rides.

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684905)

You can choose what you buy, can't you? The other countries are free to choose, if they want to produce stuff that damages the environment, they can sell it to anyone else.

Oh, so we should just outsource our negative externalities to other places with those brown/yellow-skinned people living in poverty?

How very cosmopolitan of you.

Also, you don't think there is any middle ground for reducing or better thinking our current regulations?

No I don't. Current regulations are not even enough.

That's the way comrade! No compromise, no retreat! Gaia must be cleansed of this evil technology and industry! Hunter-gatherer society, FTW!

You're on the drugs, aren't you?

Strat

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40684071)

Yes, because allowing recycling businesses to create a toxic sludge and bury it in your neighborhood will carry no long-term costs. Regulations are in place to try and force businesses to own their costs instead of passing them on to the general population in the form of poluted air, water and in the longer term increased health care costs.

Perhaps if businesses were held accountable for the the full lifetime of their products, they would innovate more environmentally friendly products, or at least products that could be dismantled and recycled easier.

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684729)

Perhaps if businesses were held accountable for the the full lifetime of their products, they would innovate more environmentally friendly products, or at least products that could be dismantled and recycled easier.

Or they could decide, after comparing risk/reward and cost/benefit, that investing in research, development, and manufacturing of tech products just isn't worth it, sell off their factories and assets, and go into making shoelaces or something instead, or simply stick their capital in offshore accounts and collect interest.

Congratulations! You've just killed the tech industry and crippled the entire species' technological development.

Unintended consequences are a bitch

Or do you prefer everyone live in an agrarian society? Hunter-gatherer, perhaps, if those nasty farms pollute too much and/or cows produce too much CO2?

Strat

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40685393)

Business being held accountable for their externalities. WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO. If it causes some industries to be exported then so be it, eventually those people will not want to live in polluted squalor either, and using up someone elses resources on the cheap before we use ours is not exactly a bad thing.

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40685751)

Perhaps if businesses were held accountable for the the full lifetime of their products, they would innovate more environmentally friendly products, or at least products that could be dismantled and recycled easier.

As long as you're on the hook for your share of the full lifetime costs of their products. Let's keep in mind that a lot of those costs aren't due to the products or their hazards, but how people like you decided those products should be used and disposed of.

You should be coughing up personally for the recycling program rather than passing those costs on to businesses and their customers, for example. After all, all that stuff could be shipped cheaply to Nigeria.

I find the hypocrisy of the modern environmentalism movement very unseemly. They use the economic language of externalities to describe pollution and justify regulation, but ignore the externalities created by the regulation they propose. How come it's worse to make someone's health a little worse via pollution, but virtuous to waste someone's time a little with recycling programs or pushing around a bunch of mandated paperwork?

TUNE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40684145)

Disposalble society, has thrown away.. the best of me.

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40684177)

We in the West are too pampered for our own good.

That's a nice enviro-wacko rant, but's it's bullshit. The problem is 1st world economies, not "West vs. The World". You think it's bad in the US, you've obviously never been to most of Asia- they're just as bad or worse. Take a vacation to Japan, you'll see what I mean... Korea and China aren't much different.

I don't know about the USA, but here in Europe we recycle most of our waste. Be it paper, plastic, metals, fluorescent bulbs, all kinds of oils and fats, electronic devices, everything gets recycled.

It all gets sent to the recycling center, but that does NOT mean it's being recycled. You do the same thing in Europe which the recycling companies in the US do- they pull out the easy to get metals, and the rest ends up in the landfill.

I can't believe it's cheaper to dig millions of tons of rock to extract metals and other shit than it is to recycle our trash.

It depends on the trash, and how much you want to pollute shit with the recycling process. It's not like you can hit an old computer monitor with a hammer and gold bricks fall out of it or something. Sure, you can toss the glass from an old CRT into a smelter, but what are you planning on doing with the lead, and how are you going to separate them and keep the lead safely contained? The majority of the cost is dealing with all the toxic materials which are also in the electronics, unless you're just dumping them into the environment.

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (4, Insightful)

TummyX (84871) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684185)

Do you realise how much power that 16:9 CRT draws compared to an LED TV?

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (1)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684241)

Yes, I do. Still, it's a lot cheaper than buying a new TV. When it breaks, I'll buy an LCD. And my old CRT will probably make the delights of a family living in a slum in Lagos.

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40684815)

The chances are your huge CRT is only 34", but weighs a ton. That's a tiny screen these days, especially when you get can get low end 50" plasma's and LCDs for $500. You can even get top on the line models from the last couple of years for under $1k as owners look to chase the latest.

Your CRT will have convergence issues, they all do, don't claim otherwise. You may be blind to them. Fixing convergence is around $400 a time and needs to be done regularly. I doubt you're doing that if you can't afford to replace than ancient energy guzzling box.

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40684483)

Do you realise how much power that 16:9 CRT draws compared to an LED TV?

Do you realise how much energy it takes to manufacture, package and ship that new LED TV?

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (1)

Kookus (653170) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684795)

less to package and ship than a crt

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (1)

M8e (1008767) | more than 2 years ago | (#40686039)

You have to compare the manufacturing, packaging and shipping of the new LCD/LED with moving an old CRT nowhere.
Using the old CRT doesn't have any additional manufacturing, packaging and shipping costs(both environmental and $)

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (3, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684969)

Do you realize that you can't play Duck Hunt on an LCD?

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684711)

And then, once repaired, are used to spend spam/spam emails!
Excused me, I am a Nigerian prince usering a recycled celphone. If you would be so kind to acceppt this check and sends a small cashing fee....

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (2)

moeinvt (851793) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684939)

"I saw a very nice documentary the other day showing what happens to a lot of our electronic waste."

Me too. It gets shipped to Ghana and India where people burn it (or what's left over after they physically dismantle it) in open fires to reclaim the metals.

I'd love to believe that a significant amount of this stuff goes to people who can use it, but I don't. The "used merchandise" label is often just an excuse to dump trash in 3rd world landfills.

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/poisoning-the-poor-electroni [greenpeace.org]

"Containers arrive in Ghana from Germany, Korea, Switzerland and the Netherlands under the false label of "second-hand goods... majority of the containers' contents end up in Ghana's scrap yards to be crushed and burned by unprotected workers."

Yeah, healthy happy people in Ghana are watching used TVs and installing Linux on our X86 hardware using 15" CRT monitors.

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (1)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | more than 2 years ago | (#40685447)

16:9 HD CRTs regularly show up at thrift stores around here for $20. They even have HDMI ports on them. I have also been noticing a surge of P4/Athlon era motherboards on ebay.... from China. I am beginning to suspect they are e-waste pulls being resold back to the US!

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 2 years ago | (#40685679)

Ditto. I still use my Toshiba VCR, 20" Sharp CRT TV, etc. but it's rare these days. I even wear my Casio Data Bank 150 calculator watch! They still work for me. :)

Re:Many are going to Nigeria (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40685743)

We in the West are too pampered for our own good. I have a huge 16:9 CRT TV that works perfectly. I don't know anyone that still uses CRTs. I won't waste my money on an LCD TV before my current set breaks down.

Your CRT is using up to 5 times the electricity a comparably sized LCD would. CRTs generally make more heat as well.

The usual techno-utopian view is (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40683673)

that we will mine asteroids. Makes plenty of sense. We're running out of resources, but we'll have plenty of resources to build nearly magical machines to do things that have never been done before, and we'll have the energy to power these machines. To go get the same materials that are already here. For about a billion times the price. Yup, I'm convinced.

Re:The usual techno-utopian view is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40684197)

The amount of various elements we have on earth is limited. Even if you extract everything the crust has to offer and perfectly recycle everything, there can still be cases where we benefit from having more. A very visible example is that the price of copper is always increasing, and that's not because it gets lost in people's attics faster than we can mine it. It's because we keep needing more and more of it in active use. (note: I'm not saying we should mine copper in space. Copper will always will be a poor choice for asteroid mining because there's no process to form concentrated veins of its ores. If we ever really desperately need more copper than exists on earth, we'd have to go to mars, and that would suck.)

Re:The usual techno-utopian view is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40685589)

Ladies and gentlemen, a techno-utopian cornucopian.

Better than gold ore (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40683727)

The swedish Boliden built an new facitlity in order to extract gold and other metals from e-waste. E-waste yields 100g/1000kg of material compared to 8g/1000kg of ore.

http://www.boliden.com/Press/News/2012/New-facility-makes-Boliden-world-leader/

Re:Better than gold ore (4, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684373)

E-waste yields 100g/1000kg of material compared to 8g/1000kg of ore.

Only for some definitions of "E-waste".

That amount you mentioned is after you remove the circuit boards from its enclosure. The bitch is taking apart the enclosure.

Each piece of equipment is closed with a different kind of fastener, some, like Apple, are glued together. It takes a lot of labor to pry apart the circuit board from the plastic and metal structures around it. That's why recycling is outsourced to third world countries.

If the government really wanted to increase recycling, the first thing they should regulate would be how enclosures are put together. Make philips type screws mandatory everywhere, no glue, torx screws, or any other fastener that requires special tools.

Re:Better than gold ore (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684929)

If the government really wanted to increase recycling, the first thing they should regulate would be how enclosures are put together. Make philips type screws mandatory everywhere, no glue, torx screws, or any other fastener that requires special tools.

"No glue" is enough. It's not difficult or even expensive to get all the tools any more, you can order direct from China now, remember? No need to buy from Sears that has stuff made in China.

Re:Better than gold ore (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 2 years ago | (#40685231)

i have next to me a set of "security" bits from Harbor Freight Tools that set me back ten bucks all it is missing is the iStar bits so NO GLUE is good enough (philips heads strip too easily).

Re:Better than gold ore (1)

bosef1 (208943) | more than 2 years ago | (#40685911)

I would like to second the motion that the screw-heads be other than Phillips. I like that that Phillips cruciform shape keeps the drive bit from sliding off the screw, but I feel like I've stripped more screw heads from Phillip's "cam-out" than I've broken screws or drivers from over-tightening.

Well, we do have a surplus population (2)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#40683889)

What matter if a handful, or I dare say more than a handful, of the undeserving poor be obliged to toil in the Reclamation Mines? To what better use can they put their meagre bodies than to serving their fellow Man by prying the riches of El Dorada from the cast offs of their betters?

Indeed, it shall doubtless enrich their souls, even as it puts food in their swollen, suppurating bellies, and seven toes on their endless broods of mewling, conjoined offspring. Two heads, it is said, are better than one, and many of our Reclamation Miners shall grow to enjoy those benefits first-hand.

oblig quote (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40684025)

What smells like bloody sinuses?

320 tons of gold? (1)

syntheticmemory (1232092) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684173)

$16 billion will buy 10.11 tons of gold at current prices.

Re:320 tons of gold? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40684447)

10.11 tons = 10.11 x 2000 x 12 troy oz of gold
At $1580/troy oz that is $383M

Re:320 tons of gold? (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#40685249)

10.11 tons = 10.11 x 2000 x 12 troy oz of gold
At $1580/troy oz that is $383M

A pity for your argument that a ton is 29166.67 troy ounces; you're about $80M short. Still, much less than $16B...

fuc4er (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40684233)

it's going, members' creative D1cks produced There are some

Not worth it (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684423)

It really isn't worth it to get scrap gold from plated items including CPUs and motherboards. Tom's Hardware did a thing on how to do it and I tried it only to come up with a tiny chunk of gold (if 100% pure still only worth about $4 today). Industrially it may be possible to get gold/silver but I'm not sure how economically viable it is due to labor being very expensive and it being a labor intensive process.

When it comes down to it, if you have to pay to recycle something, the recycling is not economically viable. If they pay you to recycle it, recycling is economically viable.

Education? (1)

coofercat (719737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684511)

I wonder if education might help here. We all have a lot of mis-placed vanity, and I wonder if knowing more about what's involved in our purchase might help slow us down a bit.

Just this morning I was looking for short, cheap optical cables. I found this one and had a little chuckle to myself:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Resolution-Professional-suitable-HD-Surround/dp/B003F60WWM/ref=sr_1_7?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1342613690&sr=1-7 [amazon.co.uk]

Yep, it's a 24ct gold plated optical cable. I'll bet it's just a crappy polymer optical fibre, but it's gold plated for "BEST DIGITAL SURROUND SOUND". The smallest bit of education would render sales for this pretty difficult ;-)

Sounds good but.... (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 2 years ago | (#40684731)

If you look at the dollar value of materials in a cell phone, and then compare it to just the labor cost of thowing it into a machine, I think the plan will fall apart. While tons of precious metals sounds like an opportunity, getting it out of millions of devices may cost more than that. I really can't say, as I'm not familiar with the recovery process. If it's so profitable, stop writing about it and get going!

I'm not sure it's "missed" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40684821)

I don't know much about the places they're talking about, but around here it sure isn't a missed opportunity. People pick up any kind of old electronics, stockpile it, and break it down for metals on their own. I know a couple of people that harass retail store QA departments for the damaged computers they sometimes have to throw out. In fact, they'll take anything metal that's not nailed down anymore; I have even seen streetfolk tearing down stolen shopping carts, metal lawn chairs, etc.

Sometimes they don't even wait until the stuff is thrown out or left outside unattended. A lot of the thrift stores don't sell computers anymore because people will open them up and strip the memory sticks' "gold fingers" right there on the salesfloor. I know at least one case of people stealing brass doorknobs from a small business during hours.

So what I think is... these "developing nations" must be lazy! Not like our enterprising folks!

I actually do this (4, Informative)

Hunter Shoptaw (2655515) | more than 2 years ago | (#40685031)

I work for a company that takes care of e-waste. The problem we face is that many times we are outbid by companies that then ship the waste off shore or simply stripped and tossed. The company I work for actually has teams in our warehouse that comb through every piece and find pieces that are available for resale. Those pieces that aren't are them dismantled, categorized and shipped to certified recyclers so that each and every piece that can possibly be recycled is. We even recycle most of our shipping materials. There are costs associated with recycling your systems, sure, but it's better than paying the EPA fines if your caught even once. Also, some recyclers, including the one I work for, will actually pay you for your electronics in some cases, depending on type and condition. Many times there are lots of things that we could be doing differently as a society to increase our ecologic awareness and minimize our e-waste impact. We simply don't because it's not the most convenient option. As I'm not trying to plug my company, I'll leave out the name. If your interested ask for it in the comments.

Already happening (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40685091)

A lot of circuit boards from e equip goes to Afirca where it is piled up and lit on fire, the resulting dross leaking out is then sold.

Money (1)

Taibhsear (1286214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40685173)

I don't think the article writer has any idea how much the waste costs to recycle. If the cost to extract the metals and whatnot is more than the price of them on the market, there is no financial incentive to recycle them. It's not like you just toss it in a wood chipper and centrifuge the stuff out.

We give dead PCs to be mined (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40685403)

Our local e-waste person found himself unemployed a couple of years ago. Unable to find a job, he started a recycle company that picks up dead computers from area computer stores and pays them $1 per machine. The computers are broken down into the component parts. The parts are brought to a foundry where they are melted down. Cables are stripped with the copper added to the mix. Recycling 1700 PC's yields 4 ounces of gold along with larger amounts of other precious metals.

The total metal in each PC is worth close to $4. So, the recycler makes $3 per machine.

I appreciate that this is being done locally instead of shipping the dead machines to China, giving them free precious metal.

I don't think that that's true (3, Informative)

slashmydots (2189826) | more than 2 years ago | (#40686041)

All humans total mine approximately 1714 tons of gold per year in the entire world so I have a hard time believing that 500-micron thick electroplated electronic contact pins result in 320 tons like the article states. Consider how many solid gold rings are made in jewelry stores in every country in the world and how almost every married person has one, it's probably closer to a 10000:1 ratio instead of 5:1 like the article implies.
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