Exporting Electronic Waste and Ecological Disaster

Did you know that an estimated 50 to 80 percent of electronic waste that is collected for recycling in the United States is exported to other countries, such as India, China, Ghana, and Nigeria? Since the cost of recycling electronic devices is higher in the United States, we outsource this task and export the waste to poorer countries. While "out of sight, out of mind" might be a convenient strategy, it can have devastating effects on the living conditions and habitats of the residents of the regions to which the electronic waste is exported. The reasons why it is so much cheaper to recycle in these places includes the lower costs of labor and the primitive waste management practices in place. These practices include burning plastic which adds to air pollution and stripping parts of precious metals with acid baths which are then dumped into surface water. Residents of these areas have higher amounts of lead in their blood and heavy metals contaminate the ground and the water supply.
The Basel Convention is an international treaty which bans this exact type of exportation of electronic waste. Unfortunately, though the United States is a signatory to the convention, it has yet to ratify it in over 20 years. This allows the United States to cheaply export its electronic waste without having to take responsibility for the consequences.
Do your part to end this practice by contacting your representatives in Congress and urge them to push for the ratification of the Basel Convention terms in US law. You can also help by finding local electronic recycling programs that do not export the waste to other countries. Even better, you can be more strategic in your purchases of electronic devices and increase the amount of time before you replace older devices which will need to be recycled.