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Stop Hazardous E-Waste Exports from the US

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he United States in 2012 produced 9,965.66 kilotons (or 31.71 kilograms per person) of new electronic products, including computers, TVs, and cell phones. In addition to manufacturing these new products, the US discarded 9359.78 kilotons (29.78 kilograms per person)[1] all of which is recycled, incinerated, or thrown into a landfill. Of all this electronic waste, called e-waste, only 12.5% is recycled while 80-85% is tossed into landfills, where the water supply is polluted, or incinerated, in which case toxic chemicals are released into the air. Even when recycled, e-waste still poses a problem: it is exported to nations such as Ghana, India, China, Pakistan, and Nigeria where the people of these countries strip the e-waste of all of its precious metals, which exposes them to many harmful toxins in the process.

The export of e-waste has been curbed in many countries across the world by the UN’s Basel Convention, so the clear answer to the problem in the United States is to ratify the convention. At its inception and signing, the United States signed but did not ratify the convention because of how much US companies rely on the export of wastes defined as “hazardous” by the convention, such as iron scrap. Many US companies rely on the export of their waste products to countries that are less picky about the chemicals that they import, and therefore it is relevant to the US economy that these wastes are exported. But although the export is important to US companies, it is detrimental to the countries that import the waste products and needs to be stopped. The Basel Convention must be ratified for the sake of the third world. The lives and well-being at stake make it an issue of human ethics more than economics. Even so, at home we could see economic benefits in the long run, as the removal of an easy option for disposal would force companies to consider less destructive ways of recycling and reusing e-waste. Despite initial costs, improved recycling would return valuable materials to the electronics industry without our needing to mine them, ultimately saving money as well as the environment. So again, the issue of whether or not the United States ratifies the Basel convention is not a question of economics, it's a question of human ethics. Our goal with this petition is to bring it to the attention of the US Government that the people of this country demand a change in the way that we export e-waste that works towards the ethical treatment of people in other countries, and ultimately, the ethical treatment of the planet Earth.

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