Recycling the Wrong Way

I was dismayed over the weekend to learn that much, if not most, of our recycled electronics are involved in a very seedy and human-damaging processes. It would seem that many of the items that we discard ever-so-carefully carefully in order not to harm the environment are being harvested in such a way that they are very harmful to humans, instead. To make matters worse, the process still harms the environment, albeit the environment offshore.

The electronics that we discard in a manner that we are told is “green” turns out to be anything but. Much of our electronic refuse is collected and shipped overseas (China, Nigeria, India, etc.) where very poorly paid workers manually disassemble it, often using their only their bare hands, hand tools and blowtorches to do so. In the process they are exposed, in an up close and personal manner, to the very cocktail of harmful chemicals that we are trying to avoid by recycling these items.

Much of what is left over after the most valuable components and elements have been stripped away is still harmful. That remainder is often simply buried in the ground, or in foreign landfills, the very action that we were trying to avoid by recycling it in the first place. The only real difference is that it is poisoning the ground in a foreign country instead of the ground in America.

If there is any lesson that we should have learned over our years of bad stewardship over the Earth, it is that our planet is one large ecosystem, made up of millions of smaller ecosystems. They are all connected, joined at the oceans and the air, if no place else. What is buried in India will sooner or later leach into the local groundwater system, which is inevitably connected at one end to an ocean or large lake. In the end, we all share in the waste, and in the problems.

We seem to never learn what is right in our endless greed.

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