Conclusion: Bad Recycling Can Happen Anywhere

US News and World Report, among others, reports on a new study published May 31, in Environmental Research Letters.  Its a paper on the effects of toxics on human health, observed in a dirty recycling village where the recycling had been shut down because of the problems it was causing.

Environmentalists are already tweeting about the study's descriptions of toxics on the human body.  Those are all true, and no one doubts that the operation from Taizhou (shut down in 2004) is a mess.

But the researchers also clearly, very clearly, identify the problem as the standards for recycling at the plant.  It is not a call to ban imports of electronics or "e-waste".  And the researcher, Dr. Yang, is careful to note that recycling is better than smelting and refining, and that the culprit is the 2004 Taizhu process, not "recycling" or "imports and exports".   He calls for better trade, and reform of practices. It's a good foundation for fair trade or alter-globalization solutions.

Incidentally, my new HTC Evo 4G is completely unacceptable!  It is a total failure!  I missed the "30 day" warranty and do not out of principle buy the $80 annual warranty on cell phones (which would reflect an acceptance of 40% failure rate based on cost of the phone).  There is some "touchscreen" sensitivity issue which causes it to be unresponsive to touch at certain times - and not at others.  I can't get a clear answer whether it is a software or hardware issue, and I don't want to pay $400 for another damn Sprint phone.

HTC, Android, Sprint... I liked my first EVO, the one I broke accidentally, and was anxious to replace it.  I would maintain that the resale and export of that working one with a broken screen and a full return warranty and happy buyer feedback is NOT waste, and that THIS BRAND NEW ONE is e-waste.  I am mad enough to consider dumping Sprint after 10 years, or turning to Waste-o-Matic.  Totally and completely unacceptable that the phone is unresponsive to touch and I cannot answer calls.

It was made in China.  And any replacement phone I buy will likely be made in China.  It is not the fact that the phone is Chinese or made in Shenzhen.   I focus my anger on Sprint and HTC for the quality of this particular phone.  If I buy an IPhone replacement, it will also be made in the same factory, Foxconn, probably in Shenzhen, and if I am pleased with it, I will applaud it.  It is the quality of the device and the quality of the work which is the focus, not the nationality or ethnicity of the cell phone workers.

The same lesson - the exact same lesson - should be applied to recycling.  The fact that one Chinese process fails does not mean "China fails".  Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, we don't boycott Dallas.  Duh.


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