Since 2007, in Europe, there has been legislation to govern the practise of recycling electrical waste in the correct manner. This involves using machinery to recycle the equipment.
However there have been high profile stories in the media where electrical waste has been exported to developing countries for processing.
This is usually is performed at landfill dumps, where the waste is hand sorted and stripped of hazardous components in order to make the material recoverable.
Not only is this dangerous to the local environment but also to the people performing the work.
For example, within an old style television there are many hazardous components that would pollute the surrounding environment if not properly processed. The cathode ray tube that projects the image to the screen contains cadmium, a hazardous component that requires specialist treatment. But this is often processed by hand and the hazardous parts discarded into the landfill as they recover the valuable materials.
Often the remaining good elements of the waste will be burned to take away rubber and plastics to reveal precious metals. After all it is the precious metals in most cases that are desired from the processing. The fumes from burning the remaining waste are extremely hazardous when inhaled and released into the environment. Any run off of liquids created from the process then enter the local water system polluting it with extremely hazardous chemicals making it undrinkable. The risk to health and the environment is ignored as the need to make money from the procedure. The resulting copper and other metals will provide the processor a good financial return.
Second-hand technology has a limited life
Consideration must also be given to good working equipment that is being exported. What works today may not work tomorrow as you will be aware with technology. What happens when that working equipment becomes past it’s usable life? Will the equipment be handled in the correct manner without harm to the environment or risk human health.
Second life electrical donations do help people within developing countries, however just check with the company or charity that you donate to, what would happen to the equipment once it becomes redundant.
Hazardous electrical waste can be properly processed in the UK and Europe according to weee recycling initiatives, to recover the precious materials contained within. The hazardous components can be treated to remove the dangerous elements. There is no need to export electrical waste as it should be treated and recycled in the country of origin safely and without harming people or the environment