Do you know where your old computer goes? Even if you recycle it in a recognised facility, can you be sure it’s parts are being disposed of properly?

Not according to a report from the Basel Action Network (BAN). They estimate than in Nigeria alone 500 containers of used computers, in various states of disrepair, enter the country every month. This represents about 400,000 computers every 30 days.

They believe this to be representative of what is increasingly taking place in the ports of developing countries worldwide. On the African continent, only South Africa has good quality recycling facilities for this material, leaving much of Africa to slowly suffocate under a mountain of our exported electronic waste.

Africa is not the only continent affected. A recent CBS 60 Minutes investigation tracked waste from a Colorado based firm Executive Recycling. Executive was an approved firm with a contract from the local authority to handle the area’s electronic waste. 60 Minutes followed a container of old computer monitors (which can contain several pounds of lead) all the way to Hong Kong on an underground and often illegal network of exported electronic waste.

‘Backyard recycling facilities’ are used to try to salvage valuable components such as copper from these waste computers. The methods used, including informal smelting, are hugely dangerous to both workers and the environment.

A lethal ménage of chemicals can be released if computers are dealt with in this way. Antimony contained in the screen glass may leach out . The small amount of cadmium in plastic may be released in the form of dust if the plastic is burned. Lead in a monitor or circuit board may leach out of the leaded glass. Incineration can result in release of lead to the air as well as of lead in the ash, which is then scattered across a wide area. Lithium in a battery will be released if the battery is shredded with the circuit board to which it is attached. Mercury can be released from certain flat panel displays. Also, land filling and incineration of flat panel displays can result in the release of mercury.

Poisoning, cancers, birth defects, respiratory failure and more, are all side effects of exposure to these chemicals.

So, next time you’re getting rid of those old computers, think re-use instead of recycle. Camara prolongs the life of old computers, reducing the need for new manufacturing. And when it’s time for your computer to head to the big server-in-the-sky, Camara will ensure it is recycled responsibly and safely, and not just dumped on someone else.

Think Re-Use, Think Education, Think Camara.