Western Gain, 3rd World Pain: duckshoving E-waste away

Have you ever thought about the hidden cost of the technology you use? Where it begins and Where does it end? In such a technological world as we have, we tend to think of technology at a personal one dimensional level. We brought it, that’s where it began and once we’re finished with it we recycle it, sell it on or leave it sit in our office collecting dust. It’s life is based around our use for it.

In China, in Ghana, in India and in many third world countries the poorest people are “taking advantage” of our e-waste through copper computer “mining” and burning off to a more lucrative business of computer recovery, where one’s data is recovered and sold off for identity theft. E-waste.com stated that it is not uncommon for “criminal organisations in Ghana [to] “comb through” the electronic waste exported from the U.S and the U.K for hard drives [and] retrieve personal data from their internal memories to steal your identity.”

Here are their respective vidoes:


Nigeria- Ghana:


So while you might think you’re doing the right thing by recycling your old computer and that after you’ve thrown it in the trash it’s not your problem, the issue of identity theft can easily come back to haunt you. Take for instance online banking, internet shopping, tax returns, social networking – all of these are services involve us giving out our most personal information, all of which are stored somewhere on your computer hard drive. If you are to recycle, ensuring your  data is properly destroyed is one means of protection from fraud. Simply deleting files is not enough.

It certainly seems like e-waste is fast becoming the biggest enemy for environmental sustainability, but what about the benefits? Wait, are there any benefits?

In an article by Paul Ridden on Gizmag, E-waste is now being used for a concept called ‘ThinkerToys’, stating, “Dhairya Dand has so far created four ThinkerToys prototype kit modules with the ever-versatile Arduino computer as a platform, added custom chips, authored some code, and fitted kit-specific components like a serial LCD screen, speaker, and VS1053B MP3 decoder. He told us that the project is still very much in the early stages of development, with the final goal being “production quality custom hardware that can go out and be used as toys for kids in the developing world, especially starting with kids who work and live near landfills.”

So there you have it, although in the beginnging stages of the work, e-waste could eventually be used for educational purposes. The poorest of the poor could now be about to receive a simple education with the very tools they are melting down for money.





One thought on “Western Gain, 3rd World Pain: duckshoving E-waste away

  1. You’ve really found a different way of looking at the issue of e-waste, one that I’ve never really thought about before. The threat of identity theft or any other illegal data collection is actually quite scary. When we try and do the ‘right thing’ by recycling our old technologies, I don’t think we imagine that our information is going with it. For me, I don’t think it has even registered that my information is still on a device when I go to recycle it, which is kind of stupid now that I think about it.

    And I suppose if other people knew that this was a threat it would work as a great incentive to promote reusing our devices or reducing our reliance on these devices, which are better for the environment anyway.

    Great blog post and great angle!

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