The dirty truth about where our technology trash ends up

More than half the computers collected for recycling in the U.S. are shipped to developing countries, including Ghana.

Credit: Courtesy of Terra Blight

The San Francisco Green Film Festival kicks off today, and we here at The I Files couldn't be more excited. The event includes 50 films from around the globe, with more than 70 visiting filmmakers and guest speakers covering environmental topics such as clean energy, green chemistry, food, housing, trash and water. The festival takes place in the city by the Bay through June 5, ending, appropriately, on the U.N.’s World Environment Day. Make sure you check the website for more information.

We wanted to highlight an excerpt from a film that caught our attention. "Terra Blight" takes an intimate look at the people and livelihoods affected by the life cycle of electronics – one of the most ubiquitous sources of toxic waste on our planet. Dangers from the "disposal" – or lack thereof – of more than 100 million pieces of discarded technology a year run the gamut, from lead contamination to death. In the following excerpt, which we're featuring now on The I Files, journalist Mike Anane asks: Why is the U.S. dumping its electronic waste in Ghana?

You can catch the San Francisco premiere of "Terra Blight" at 2:15 p.m. Saturday at the New People Cinema, 1746 Post St.


Some pretty shocking findings from the documentary:

1. The U.S. generates more electronic waste than any other country.

2. More than 100 million computers, monitors and TVs are discarded each year – that's 274,000 a day.

3. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that 70 percent of the heavy-metal contamination in landfills comes from discarded electronics.

4. More than half the computers collected for recycling in the U.S. are shipped to developing countries. 

Additional resources:

EPA tips on safe electronics recycling

2010 CIR report on the Basel Convention, a global treaty to restrict international trade in electronic waste

Got more great tips? Write them in the comments below or tweet me at @juliachanb.

The I Files, a project of The Center for Investigative Reporting, is pleased to support the San Francisco Green Film Festival as a media sponsor this year. For more on the latest documentaries from around the world, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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