The Verge took a deep dive tracking the path of New York City’s e-waste “from shelf to shredder.” It looks at both the real efforts to recycle e-waste as well as the darker side—companies that take e-waste and ship it to third world countries.
From the report:
The US has no federal law requiring e-waste be recycled. Currently, only 25 states in the US have laws establishing a funding system for the collection and recycling of electronic products, as well as bans against sending electronics to landfills. In the other 25 states, tossing toxic e-waste into the trash is perfectly legal.
And then there’s the disastrous effect that e-waste has had on Third World countries. The US is the only developed nation that hasn’t ratified an international treaty to stop First World countries from dumping their e-waste in developing nations. So, mountains of hazardous US-based waste are growing at an exponential rate in countries like India, China, and South Africa. Exported e-waste has turned rivers in China black and towns in Ghana into some of the world’s largest dumps. The UN Environment Programme predicts that between 2007 and 2020, the amount of e-waste exported to India will have jumped by 500 percent, and by 200 to 400 percent in South Africa and China.