One of the things that weÃ¯Â¿Â½ll be doing at GreenSpec-Light is to talk about some of the issues that donÃ¯Â¿Â½t usually make the popular headlines, but which have enormous relevance to an organisationÃ¯Â¿Â½s sustainability credentials.
And today, IÃ¯Â¿Â½d like to pick up on a couple of things that have come my way this week.
1. The disposal of LEDs at the end of their lives, and where does e-stuff go when we throw it away?
2. A book about slum living in Mumbai.
We may accept intellectually that just dumping our e-rubbish halfway around the globe is a morally bankrupt thing to do, but that doesnÃ¯Â¿Â½t stop us putting our hands in our pockets and walking away whistling when we Ã¯Â¿Â½dispose responsiblyÃ¯Â¿Â½ of old electronics.
Salvage companies take our old e-trash, tag it as Ã¯Â¿Â½charitable donationsÃ¯Â¿Â½ and abandon it on the doorstep of some of the poorest people in the world, for them to scrape a living from stripping out anything reclaimable from the equipment.
Consequence: The health and environmental risks of informal recycling are high. Extracting metals like copper and gold in open acid baths, which is illegal, releases toxins such as dioxins, heavy metals, lead, cadmium, mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFRs). Acid and chemical residues contaminate water and soil. Informal recyclers work without protective clothing, exposing themselves to hazardous chemicals that can lead to physical injuries Ã¯Â¿Â½ mercury, for instance, can cause brain and kidney damage, and BFRs disrupt hormonal function Ã¯Â¿Â½ and chronic illnesses like asthma and skin diseases
Read more at the TIME website:
Which brings me to Ã¯Â¿Â½Behind The Beautiful ForeversÃ¯Â¿Â½, a book by Katherine Boo.
Boo spent three years with the people of Annawadi, a slum settlement in view of Mumbai airport. The book describes the lives of people living in desperate poverty Ã¯Â¿Â½ and talks of the problem of finding translators prepared to go into the rooms of the e-garbage sorters.
ItÃ¯Â¿Â½s a book that creates a bridge between our philosophical understanding of the problem of e-dumping and the awareness that there are real people whose health is being ruined by our lack of taking a true moral position on the situation.
The crazy thing is that we still need all those nasty elements. We send the old stuff as far away as possible, then buy the stuff back so that we can make the next generation of LEDs and electronic circuitry.
There is another way, of course. I was talking to Computer Salavage Specialists earlier today and learned all that I need to know about how they treat electronic waste and how those important elements are recovered here in the UK.
I feel the need to address the argument that says the current situation is keeping thousands of people alive - albeit on the very edge of existence - and if this means of survival was taken away then they'd be in an even worse situation.
Hmm. Cant of the worst order, I'd say. I have no problems with the idea of e-waste being sent around the world, but I then expect to see the same level of technology being used to handle the material as we have here in the UK.
To accept the status quo is to accept slavery and children up chimneys. They weren't right then; this isn't right now.
Greenwashing: a guidline for good behaviour
The elephant box in the room
What Lighting Designers Should be Looking For . . . and Asking For
The Children's Fire
Products That Last - Redux
Products That Last - Review No.3
Products That Last - Review No.2
Products That Last - Review No.1
Products That Last
Talking about Waste - as we were . . .
Sustainability - They Seek it Here, They Seek it There . . .
Sustainability - the core message
The Life and Times of the LED - a series in ten parts
Sustainability: They Seek it Here; They Seek it There . . .
John Bullock writes a regular column for lighting magazines. You can find all of the archived pieces here.
BLOGS - LIGHTING DESIGN
John Bullock writes about all things and anything concerning architectural lighting design; new technologies and old lamps; anything,really.
HOME LIGHTING CONSULTANT
John Bullock designs innovative lighting designs for people's homes. By working closely with clients he is able to deliver solutions that meet - and exceed - their expectations.
BLOGS - CPD RIBA CORE PROGRAMME 2015
John Bullock will be presenting a seminar on latest lighting design and technologies as part of the RIBA CPD Core programme 2015
BLOGS - SUSTAINABILITY
John Bullock believes that the UK lighting industry needs to embrace a sustainable way of delivering good quality product through good design, fabrication and end-of-life management.
BLOGS - LIGHTING HEALTH AND WELLBEING
Lighting has a vital role to play in our health and wellbeing.
CONDUIT (6) - Lighting for Winter Gardens
CONDUIT 5: Home Lighting - LED Lighting (2)
FX Magazine: Lighting Focus - Sustainability (Issue 258)
CONDUIT 4: Home Lighting - LED Lighting (1)
Can Smart Lighting Save The Planet?
CONDUIT 3: Home Lighting - The Bathroom
Can Lighting Save Us From Ourselves . . . NO!
CONDUIT 2: Home Lighting - The Dining Room