We've all seen the horrifying pictures of children in developing countries combing through massive, unstable piles of our discarded cell phones, monitors, keyboards and other electronic detritus.
It's true that the world's electronic waste (e-waste) recycling chain has been Byzantine and downright dirty at times -- but it's also true that e-waste should be recycled, since it contains valuable and harmful materials that can seriously pollute our land, air and water.
Recently in Senegal, children have been poisoned to death by leaking waste from improper battery recycling.
So what to do? Last month the United Nations announced The Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment (PACE), with the goal of making sure old tech equipment is disposed of in a safe and environmentally friendly manner.
PACE is to be a forum for governments, industry leaders, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academia to tackle the problem. Working with the 1989 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, PACE hopes to develop specific guidelines for recycling and refurbishing equipment.
A similar international effort is underway that specifically targets cell phones.
Hopefully, the talks will lead to rigorous rules and a chain of accountability, rather than more hand wringing and empty declarations.
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