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What to do with old computers

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Recycling: recovery of waste or used materials for use in the manufacture of new products.

In Europe, companies are constantly renewing their IT equipment. It then piles up in landfills, and threatens our environment.

New laws will have to be passed to force manufacturers to recycle this waste. In Europe, each person gets rid of an average of 14kg of used computer equipment each year.

This waste accumulates in open dumps, or is buried in the earth. However, they contain toxic products, such as lead or mercury, which can pollute our environment by infiltrating the earth to rivers.

To limit this danger, the leaders of the European Union want to make computer manufacturers more responsible. From next year, these companies will have to help with the collection and reprocessing of this material.

Either they will pay to allow the recycling of the material they sell to families or to other businesses. Either they will do this work themselves.

The European Union hopes that, within 4 years, we will be able to collect more than a quarter of this electronic waste in order to recycle it. It also plans to ban certain hazardous products in the manufacture of computers.

Aware that electronic waste is a source of pollution and danger for humans, recycling is gradually being organized in many countries in order to recover in particular the precious metals contained in this waste. In the United States or in France, recycling becomes compulsory and the waste must be taken care of by special channels and companies.

International regulations, the Basel Convention, require countries that export hazardous waste to notify the recipient of the nature of the waste. The European Union requires manufacturers of electronic products to take charge of the treatment of their own waste, if necessary by using a waste management company.

Despite this, a lot of electronic waste leaves developed countries to underdeveloped countries where a whole sector has been established, such as in Accra in Ghana.

In the 2000s, part of the exported waste was more easily exported by being presented as reusable second-hand equipment, but in reality often unusable. Many children dismantle, sort and burn electronic waste to collect metals like copper.


Other non-valued debris is released into the environment or burned, releasing numerous products into the air, water and soil, toxic to the environment and to humans. China has also since the 1980s become a cemetery for electronic waste.

Through planned obsolescence, present-day Western society, more commonly known as a consumer society, is pushing the population to ever more purchases. Thus, large quantities of waste electrical and electronic equipment are produced mostly in Europe and America and are exported legally or illegally to emerging regions where there are great economic and social disparities, such as China. , India and Ghana.

A minority of people (governments, traders) profit from it to the detriment of the natives, who generally make a living from farming. As the sorting industry is almost non-existent, waste recycling is carried out through informal organizations. Because of the toxicity of these products, we are witnessing the contamination of ecosystems, sources of wealth and income, and the endangering of the inhabitants.

The 1990s were marked by the proliferation of environmental and human scandals caused by the mismanagement of toxic waste. As a result of this, various laws have attempted to regulate the fate of these. Until now, the governments of producing countries have shown themselves unable to safely end-of-life for this waste. It seems urgent to deal with this problem through the environmental, social and economic consequences it generates.

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