I find the whole thing amazing, in that we have a bunch of well-off politicians mandating that the castoff waste not be sold to those who can benefit from it. There must be some economic motivation that has not been made public, some hidden agenda, since this does not come from their "inherrent goodness".
Is it possible that the people doing the recycling are aware of the hazards, and are making an informed choice? The fact is that we simply are not able to create utopia by ramming all sorts of regulations down the throats of those who choose to take risks. No amount of legislation is going to make life risk-free, that is the fact.
There does come a point where all of this alleged safety concern winds up strangling the livelyhood of others. We can see it right here in the USA, and now the politicians hope to extend this strangle-hold onto other parts of the world.
Besides all of that, there is a lot of work needed to restore our economy right here in the USA, so perhaps our legislators need to work on some of the much closer to home problems.
T.J., if someone I know has a drinking problem, I may not be able to get them to stop drinking, but I'm sure not going to buy beer for them.
If China is engaging in this kind of dangerous recycling, we may not be able to stop them, but we don't need to enable them.
And by the way, just because the ruling party in China happens to be named "the Chinese Communist Party" doesn't mean that the economy is not capitalist to the core. The fact that there is still state ownership in a few key areas such as mining or steel production doesn't make China any different from other authoritarian capitalist regimes such as Pinochet's Chile, which was considered to be a free-market paradise. The problem is not lack of economic "openness," it's lack of democracy and public accountability.
However, the Chinese people are not quite as meek and submissive as Western stereotypes would have it. There has been growing social unrest as a result of poor conditions, some of which has focused on environmental problems. I think these protest movements will ultimately lead to change. Either the government will appease the protesters in the name of preserving the so-called "harmonious society," or there will be another revolution.
Not sure if this is a factor, but certian recyclers will go to great lengths to extract a small amount of GOLD from electronic components. They take serious health risks in the process. And some think that the revenue from the business is worth the risk. To these people it is simply their livelyhood, their survival...
If China is going to make any inroads towards improving recycling e-waste or any other waste, they must first teach their people to individually serve others/their environment/etc...instead of only themselves and the almighty dollar.
They know this stuff goes on, but more people don't care than those that do.
Rob is right; as their middle class grows, so will their awareness and their level of care.
China has a ways to go. Much of the manufacturing is state of the art, but they are about 100 years behind in some of the social aspects of an industrial society -- child labor laws, safety laws, collective bargaining. As their middle class grows, they may insist on progressive changes. But that's not certain. There are traditional aspects of their culture that are not similar to the United States. In many ways, we were better equipped to fight authority and demand labor advances -- we had a couple hundred years of experience standing up to power when we demanded improved working conditions.
Their economy is strictly controlled by their communist government. An open, capitalist economy will cause wages to increase (no more suicides at Apple I-pad factories), give people a chance to be more picky at the jobs they take (no more dangerous recycling).
It won't happen overnight. And it won't happen because a law in a foreign country tries to stop the transfer of goods. If cheap (if dangerous) recycling is a going market, they'll get the goods from elsewhere.
T.J., what do you think China should "open up" about its economy in order to prevent this? Isn't this a consequence of the "opening up" of China's economy? In many ways, buisness enjoys a far less regulated environment in China than in the U.S. Isn't that how companies are able to get away with this in the first place?
This will stop when China opens up its economy. Until then, life is cheap there. The companies accepting the used parts are making a buck too, by knowingly accepting the used parts. They can choose to deal with reputable suppliers at higher cost and lower profit margin, or they can purchase from the lowest bidder, and know they get the used stuff. Caveat Emptor.
I hope the bill dies. This is not the way to fix the problem.
Good questions, Jack. I'm not sure how it works in South America where a small portion of e-waste heads, but in China there isn't much enforcement. From talking to people in component distribution, I hear that the Chinese government looks the other way both to the deconstruction of the e-waste as well as the flush of these parts back into the supply chain as counterfeits. We have some enforcement when the counterfeits come back to the United States, but not enough to slow the flow. I hear that in some villages, this is major employment. Not surprisingly, this allegedly includes child labor. The component industry has been pushing for legislation to stop the shipment of these goods to developing countries, since they know they get the parts back as counterfeits. Actually, these are not technically counterfeit. It's more fraud in that the parts are sold as "new." The TI parts really are TI parts, but they come off used products.
While I understand what they are trying to accomplish, I often wonder if it is our place to tell other countries how to run their industries. Don't these countries have governments to protect their own environments? Or is this more of a case where they have laws that the US is simply helping them enforce due to their lack of funds for policing?
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