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TEMPE, Ariz. A proposal under debate in the U.S. Congress to ban the export of electronics waste would likely make a growing global environmental problem even worse, say authors of an article from the journal Environmental Science and Technology appearing online today.
The authors call into question conventional thinking that trade bans can prevent "backyard recycling" of electronics waste primarily old and obsolete computers in developing countries.
Primitive recycling processes used in these countries are dispersing materials and pollutants that are contaminating air, water and soil.
"Trade bans will become increasingly irrelevant in solving the problem,'' says Eric Williams, one of the authors of the article, which offers alternative ways to address the problem.
Williams is an assistant professor at Arizona State University with a joint appointment in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, a part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the School of Sustainability.
Electronics waste or e-waste is often exported from the United States and other developed nations to regions in China, India, Thailand and less developed countries where recycling is done in a crude fashion.
To recover copper from e-waste, for instance, wires are pulled out, piled up and burned to remove insulation covering the copper. This emits dioxins and other pollutants.
Toxic cyanide and acids used to remove gold from circuit boards of junked computers also are released into the environment.
With the number of junked computers expected to triple in the next 15 years, the authors say, the problem will grow much worse if an effective remedy is not put in place in the near future.
The main approach to solving the backyard r
|Contact: Joe Kullman|
Arizona State University