Monday, December 07, 2009

Amazing Disg-Race

I was appalled to see the contestants of the current season of the Amazing Race, a reality TV show, sitting in the middle of mountains of electronic waste in a tiny scrap shop in Vietnam and using bare hands to dismantle electronic waste items looking for the clue which was hidden inside one of the waste items. Once they found the clue, they hurried out of the shop to their next destination, leaving behind heaps of torn apart pieces of electronics on the uncemented dusty floor. The shopkeeper, obviously dazzled by being under the spotlight, proudly watching over with the family which included children!

Showing electronic waste piles in dingy shops in the narrow lanes of Vietnam must have sounded a sexy idea to the producers of the show. After all, they can't find such exotic locations in western Europe or the US where electronic waste is strictly regulated!

Developing and poor countries, including many in Asia, are being used as dump yards for the developed nations' electronic waste. We all know that. Unsuspecting communities in the host nations are becoming victims of toxins released from electronic waste. Some of these toxins are deadly such as lead, cadmium, beryllium and mercury.

The toxic materials are released when local operators exploit valuable metals from the electronics scrap using crude methods. These include burning in the open, disassembling electronic gadgets with bare hands to extract precious metals, and dumping the left-overs on public lands which then may be sent to landfills with the rest of the city garbage. This lays ground for the poisoning of water and soil for future generations as well.

Wondering if the folks behind The Amazing Race show have any clue to sustainability or basic environmental responsibility.

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