E-waste trade ban won't end environmental threatMarch 22, 2010
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 recycling problem has been to ban trade in e-waste. Some countries have officially banned e-waste imports, but in some cases, as in China, such legislation has pushed the trade to the black market.
Congress is debating House Resolution 2595, which would ban the export of e-waste from the United States.
"The underlying assumption of this bill and other trade bans is that most e-waste comes from outside developing nations, and that stopping trade with developed countries would cut off the supply of e-waste and stop backyard recycling," Williams says.
But authors of the Environmental Science and Technology article forecast that the developing world will generate more waste computers than the developed countries as soon as 2017, and that by 2025 the developing world will generate twice the amount of waste computers as what will come from developed nations.
"Rapid economic and population growth in developing countries is driving an increase in computer use in these parts of the world that is outpacing the implementation of modern and environment-friendly recycling systems," Williams says. " So without action, backyard recycling is certain to increase."
But he and his co-authors say even a complete global ban on trade in e-waste cannot solve the problem because it covers only a diminishing percentage of the overall supply of e-waste. They argue for direct action to reduce the harmful environmental impacts of backyard recycling.
One proposal is to pay backyard recyclers not to recycle.
"The idea is to let people first repair and reuse equipment, and only intervene to remove materials and components that would be environmentally hazardous when e-waste would be recycled using crude methods," Williams says. "Such a system looks to be an inexpensive way to maintain jobs in recycling operations and maintain access to used computers while protecting the environment."
Jinglei Yu, firstname.lastname@example.org and Meiting Ju, email@example.com, Department of Environmental Science and Engineering, Nankai University, Tianjin, China,
Yan Yang, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz. Yan.Yang.firstname.lastname@example.org
The article can be found online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/es903350q
Eric Williams, email@example.com
School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment
Joe Kullman, firstname.lastname@example.org
(480) 965-8122 direct line
(480) 773-1364 mobile
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona USA
Arizona State University
Related Engineering Articles:
E. coli may have potentially harmful effects but scientists in Australia have discovered this bacterium produces a toxin which binds to an unusual sugar that is part of carbohydrate structures present on cells not usually produced by healthy cells.
The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the University of Zurich announced today a cross-institutional team effort to generate a functional heart valve replacement with the capacity for repair, regeneration, and growth.
The Mackenzie Dike Swarm and the roughly 120 other known giant dike swarms located across the planet may also provide useful information about efficient extraction of oil and natural gas in today's modern world.
Academically strong, low-income would-be engineers get the boost they need to complete their undergraduate degrees.
Professor Ron Hui, Chair Professor of Power Electronics and Philip Wong Wilson Wong Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Hong Kong, has been named a Fellow by the Royal Academy of Engineering, UK, one of the most prestigious national academies.
The often-maligned E. coli bacteria has powerhouse potential: in the lab, it has the ability to crank out fuels, pharmaceuticals and other useful products at a rapid rate.
Raresh Pascali, instructional associate professor in the Mechanical Engineering Technology Program at the University of Houston, has been named the 2016 recipient of the Ross Kastor Educator Award.
A team at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Harvard John A.
University of Utah engineers have discovered a new kind of 2-D semiconducting material for electronics that opens the door for much speedier computers and smartphones that also consume a lot less power.
A University of Bristol academic has been elected a Fellow of the world's largest and most prestigious professional association for the advancement of technology.
Related Engineering Reading:
Engineering: An Illustrated History from Ancient Craft to Modern Technology (100 Ponderables)
by Tom Jackson (Editor) (Author), Tom Jackson (Editor)
From ancient aqueducts to soaring skyscrapers, explore engineering milestones over the centuries.
Combining engaging text with captivating images and helpful diagrams, renowned science writer Tom Jackson guides readers through the history of Engineering in the 7th installment of the groundbreaking PonderablesTM series.
Engineering is all around us. From our bridges, tunnels and skyscrapers, to our cars, computers and smartphones, engineering shapes our world and influences just about everything we see and do. And it s been that way for longer than you might think.... View Details
Basic Machines and How They Work
by Naval Education And Training Program (Author)
This revised edition of an extremely clear Navy training manual leaves nothing to be desired in its presentation. Thorough in its coverage of basic theory, from the lever and inclined plane to internal combustion engines and power trains, it requires nothing more than an understanding of the most elementary mathematics.
Beginning with the simplest of machines — the lever — the text proceeds to discussions of the block and tackle (pulleys and hoists), wheel and axle, the inclined plane and the wedge, the screw, and different types of gears (simple, spur, bevel, herringbone, spiral,... View Details
Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career (Fourth Edition)
by Raymond B. Landis (Author)
About the Book
Since Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career exploded onto the market in 1995, it has become the best selling Introduction to Engineering textbook of all time. Adopted by over 300 U.S. institutions, and reaching more than 150,000 students, the book has made major inroads into the "sink or swim" paradigm of engineering education. Armed with the book as a powerful tool for "student development," large numbers of engineering programs have implemented Introduction to Engineering courses to improve the academic performance and retention rates of their... View Details
101 Things I Learned in Engineering School
by John Kuprenas (Author), Matthew Frederick (Collaborator)
In this unique primer, an experienced civil engineer and instructor presents the physics and fundamentals that underlie the many fields of engineering. Far from a dry, nuts-and-bolts exposition, however, 101 THINGS I LEARNED® IN ENGINEERING SCHOOL probes real-world examples to show how the engineer's way of thinking can-and sometimes cannot-inform our understanding of how things work. Questions from the simple to the profound are illuminated throughout: Why shouldn't soldiers march across a bridge? Why do buildings want to float and cars want to fly? What is the difference between thinking... View Details
The Book of Massively Epic Engineering Disasters: 33 Thrilling Experiments Based on History's Greatest Blunders (Irresponsible Science)
by Sean Connolly (Author)
It’s hands-on science with a capital “E”—for engineering.
Beginning with the toppling of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, to the destructive, laserlike sunbeams bouncing off London’s infamous “Fryscraper” in 2013, here is an illustrated tour of the greatest engineering disasters in history, from the bestselling author of The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science.
Each engineering disaster includes a simple, exciting experiment or two using everyday household items to explain the underlying science and put... View Details
Mechanical Engineering Reference Manual for the PE Exam, 13th Ed
by Michael R. Lindeburg PE (Author)
Get your PE Mechanical Study Schedule and free PE Mechanical Reference Manual index at ppi2pass.com/downloads.
** New Practice Exams and Six-Minute Problem Books Now Available for New PE Mechanical Exams**
The following new titles are available from the Publisher PPI on Amazon. Free study schedules to support the new exams are available on ppi2pass.com.
PE Mechanical HVAC and Refrigeration Practice Exam (MEHRPE), PE Mechanical Thermal and Fluids Systems Practice Exam (METSPE), and PE Mechanical Machine Design and Materials Practice... View Details
The Existential Pleasures of Engineering (Thomas Dunne Book)
by Samuel C. Florman (Author)
Humans have always sought to change their environment--building houses, monuments, temples, and roads. In the process, they have remade the fabric of the world into newly functional objects that are also works of art to be admired. In this second edition of his popular Existential Pleasures of Engineering, Samuel Florman explores how engineers think and feel about their profession.
A deeply insightful and refreshingly unique text, this book corrects the myth that engineering is cold and passionless. Indeed, Florman celebrates engineering not only crucial and fundamental but... View Details
Shigley's Mechanical Engineering Design (McGraw-Hill Series in Mechanical Engineering)
by Richard G Budynas (Author), Keith J Nisbett (Author)
Shigley's Mechanical Engineering Design is intended for students beginning the study of mechanical engineering design. Students will find that the text inherently directs them into familiarity with both the basics of design decisions and the standards of industrial components. It combines the straightforward focus on fundamentals that instructors have come to expect, with a modern emphasis on design and new applications. The tenth edition maintains the well-designed approach that has made this book the standard in machine design for nearly 50 years. View Details
Basics of Mechanical Engineering
by R K Singal (Author), Mridul Singal (Author), Rishi Singal (Author)
Basics of Mechanical Engineering systematically develops the concepts and principles essential for understanding engineering thermodynamics, mechanics and strength of materials. This book is meant for first year B.Tech students of various technical universities. It will also be helpful for candidates preparing for various competitive examinations. In Basics of Mechanical Engineering Each chapter includes problems selected from university examination papers and question banks. Exhaustive question bank on theory problems at the end of each chapter. Includes all supplementary material required... View Details
Thermodynamics: An Engineering Approach
by Yunus A. Cengel Dr. (Author), Michael A. Boles (Author)
Thermodynamics, An Engineering Approach, eighth edition, covers the basic principles of thermodynamics while presenting a wealth of real-world engineering examples so students get a feel for how thermodynamics is applied in engineering practice. This text helps students develop an intuitive understanding by emphasizing the physics and physical arguments. Cengel and Boles explore the various facets of thermodynamics through careful explanations of concepts and use of numerous practical examples and figures, having students develop necessary skills to bridge the gap between knowledge and the... View Details