The Fair Trade Recycling Association was asked by professors at Memorial University and Middlebury College to suggest a "reading list" for students attending the 2013 Fair Trade Recycling Summit (plus 385 attendees online)..
College and university students observed the classes from faraway reaches of Africa, South America, and California. The suggested reading list below includes both studies, propaganda, and links to seminal works taught in most undergraduate environmental studies programs. We challenge objective readers to determine which of the links below contain facts about used electronics exports, and which are fundraising or anti-gray-market propaganda.
Big Works are from 1960. Environmental Studies they should be aware of them and we can recommend a chapter of each.
"The Waste Makers" by Vance Packard, about the corporate bias against reuse and repair, the extent to which "planned obsolescence" will grow. Republished featuring an introduction by Bill McKibben of Middlebury College. (The question is whether the "Waste Makers" are using cognitive risk - by marketing from Silent Spring - to exaggerate risks of "e-waste" recycling.)
Specific, Shorter, Background Reading on "E-waste":
US Geological Survey - there are MANY good references here, I would suggest the professors assign questions that students can find answers to at USGS.gov. Jeff Munroe may be able to narrow it down rather than send them to hunt it.
- world copper mining, where does it happen
- world gold demand, where does it go?
- percentage of gold, copper, rare earths consumed by electronics industry?
- percentage of lead met by recycled supply vs. by mining
Other Reading (or Exec Summaries). ** indicates works where the Author or Producer is attending (Kahhat, Miller, Kummer, Boron, Harris)
"Story of Stuff" is a good beginner's lesson of the theory of externalization, specifically applied to electronics production (both mining/extraction, use and disposal). We would also recommend the "Critique of Story of Stuff", also on youtube.
** 7/7 - Seven short articles by Adam Minter published by The Atlantic. Adam Minter is a Shanghai, China based author and journalist whose blog "Shanghaiscrap.com", World View column at Bloomberg, and upcoming book "Junkyard Planet", are fed with boots-on-the-ground investigative work at recycling yards in China, India, Malaysia, etc.
Press Release by EPA US EPA's description of the recent arrest and conviction of a USA-Egypt used electronics sales ring. See also Basel Action Network's description of the arrest, and the critique thereof.
** Survey: Inside the U.S. Electronics Recycling Industry (September 2011, David Daoud, IDC Harris) documents processing capacity for "non-reuse" e-waste in the USA to exceed the amount of used electronics generated or disposed, placing 35,296 Americans in full-time employment performing this work. The Report claims that 70% of this material (by weight) can be tracked as scrap sales (steel, aluminum, plastic, copper, etc.), 10% resold as fully functional equipment, and 18% sold for repair and refurbishment.