A growing crisis in e-waste recycling?


Interesting to see The Guardian taking on the issue of the Europe and North America exporting e-waste (and any responsibility for it) to countries who are increasingly pushing back:

Songmetta, who has led raids on more than 26 illegal e-waste factories in recent weeks, described some of the recycling set-ups as “frightening”, with primitive and contaminating methods used to extract valuable metals from the electronics while the rest is thrown into vast incinerators that pump out toxic smoke. […]

While the word recycling implies doing good for the planet, in fact most of the e-waste recycling plants involve a dirty and toxic process to extract lead and copper that does huge amounts of environmental damage. The plastic in e-waste, such as computer screen casings, also contains high amounts of flame retardants that are poisonous if burned or recycled into cheap food packaging, as is happening in some of the factories.

It all feels pretty neo-colonial and given these kinds of issues around recycling e-waste, the argument for repair surely becomes even stronger!


Was trying to wrap my head around what 37,000 tons is - one source suggests it is about 6000 elephants. So it’s about 1000 elephants being shipped to Thailand a month at the moment.

Or around 30 a day:

:elephant: :elephant: :elephant: :elephant: :elephant:
:elephant: :elephant: :elephant: :elephant: :elephant:
:elephant: :elephant: :elephant: :elephant: :elephant:
:elephant: :elephant: :elephant: :elephant: :elephant:
:elephant: :elephant: :elephant: :elephant: :elephant:
:elephant: :elephant: :elephant: :elephant: :elephant:

(not to scale)

Definitely. It’s a shame the article makes no mention of making things last longer and reducing our consumption rates, focusing more on who should be recycling it.


Our main issue with the shock reporting on ewaste is precisely data to bring it into global perspective. While the elephants are charming, we need to understand how big these waste flows are, when compared to previous flows to China, and region flows of waste. This is one of Josh Lepawsky’s most interesting and important points in his new book.

In our piece on Agbogbloshie from a couple of years back, Adam Minter adds a very important perspective - putting the shock reporting on Ghana into important global perspective. As he’s based in SE Asia, he might offer some perspective on this Thailand story - but appears he’s gone off to write a new book


Here’s another shock story, with little data to provide context. At least in this one, the authors tend to acknowledge most of the waste is domestic. But they seem to imply at the end that western countries are dumping waste in this place too, without backing with evidence