All our laptops and monitors, external hard drives and usb sticks, midi controllers and broadband dongles: where do they go when die? After issuing their final breaths, it is more than likely they will end up one of the many electronic graveyards in the developing world.
In Guiyu, China, for example, where men, women and children alike are to be found pulling apart old aspects of the first world’s computers, tearing out wires and burning them at night; or during the day working for next to nothing w/ little or no protection handling e-waste which contains among other varied substances, dangerous metals like lead, cadmium and mercury according to Time. In Environmental Helath Perspectives, we read findings that seem to demonstrate that children in Guiyu have elevates blood lead levels.
China has long been a place for the West to export a great deal of its potentially recyclable (and not so) waste to. In Shanghai Journal: Dump Trash, Add Scavengers, Mix and Get a Big Mess, we read
Each morning, on average, 6,300 tons of garbage arrives by barge from the central city. Mr. Kearsley-pratt’s company, Onyx, won an international bidding competition in 2003 to replace an old municipal landfill next door, which had observed almost no environmental precautions, with a state-of-the-art dump — a fenced-in area slightly larger than New York’s Central Park.
There are towns in China which are literally covered in trash of all forms, the streets are lined w/ garbage and the locals “make a living chopping up and melting down toxic plastics and metals out of the mountains of trash.”
[courtesy of our old friends, the nytimes]
Look here where we have a multimedia look at e-waste (including a variety of its exports), a site with various texts, a doco and interactive maps chronicling various aspects of what now seems to be termed eDumping. I would be very interested in seeing some sort of data visualisation showing countries exporting waste and those importing, perhaps in terms of weight of refuse, type of refuse and time of transport. Perhaps senseable city lab’s New York Talk Exchange, which visualises ways in which the inhabitatants of New York communicate with the world, could be used as a model.
[screenshot of the new york talk exchange]
O course, the procuring of such data could be a touchy subject, especially if intended for the purposes of making more clear exactly how much waste the world outsources.