The electronics market is experiencing rapid growth and consumers are replacing their electronics very frequently. According to the EPA, in 2009, “2.37 million tons of electronics were ready for end-of-life management.” It is important that all these electronics are properly recycled because they contain precious metals that could potentially be used to produce new electronics.
From an economic perspective, companies always seek to maximize their profits. As demand for precious minerals increases and mineral prices begin to seem unbearable, companies are looking for alternatives.
According to an article in Business Wire, “Major international corporations such as Waste Management (NYSE: WM), Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S), Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) and more are investing heavily in e-waste recycling as mineral prices soar worldwide.”
CAJAMARCA, PERU –– “Um, I think we have to find another place to meet,” I shouted into the phone on the morning of the Fourth of July. I was supposed to meet a local professor in the downtown Plaza de Armas here in Cajamarca, Peru, but at our designated meeting time, police were throwing tear gas into the plaza, and I saw them kicking and beating people who were slow (or too defiant) to move out of the way.
I’m here researching mining conflicts – reading, observing, and interviewing protestors, government officials, NGO staff, community members, and other stakeholders. On Tuesday night, July 3, a State of Emergency was declared here in the city of Cajamarca and two neighboring provinces of Celendín and Bambamarca after clashes between police and anti-mining protestors turned fatal. In Peru, a State of Emergency suspends certain constitutional rights such as freedom of assembly, gives police power to arrest without warrant, and gives the armed forces a frighteningly broad mandate to help the police maintain order. That evening, tear gas and violence swept through downtown Cajamarca, as described by OnEarth Magazine’s George Black. Many activists interpret the crackdown as a piece of a bigger puzzle: the criminalization of social protest in Peru.
Last Thursday I sat in on a hearing for the House Committee for Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations, and Procurement Reform, where discussion on the possibility of federally regulating fracking caused such a heated debate that it nearly broke out into a “duel” on the Hill. Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Michael Krancer, challenged the director of the Agriculture, Energy, and Environment Program at Cornell University, Dr. Robert Howarth to a duel over the validity of state regulation on environmental issues.
With all the innovation in the market today, consumers are constantly upgrading their electronic devices. Many consumers are making the responsible decision to recycle their unwanted electronic items. When managed properly, parts of their old electronics could be reused and potentially enter the supply chain again, thus decreasing the need to mine precious metals.
Apple is known for creating state-of-the-art electronic products that become the most wanted items of the day. Products such as the iPhone, iPod, iPad, and MacBook have revolutionized the electronics industry and made Apple one of the most successful companies in the world.
However, recent incidents have exposed the unfair labor practices at Foxconn and Wintek, Apple’s suppliers in China. The mental and physical health of workers at their facilities are overlooked as they are constantly under great pressure and overworked. Many workers live in crowded dorms and work longer hours than what Apple has suggested – Apple claims there is a maximum 60-hour workweek except in unusual circumstances.