There are a number of products and materials that are subject to government designations as waste. The designations applied serve the purposes of the garbage industry very well. Partly that is because rather than leaving the question of reuse open, they declare that these are wastes! No one notices. Of course these unwanted articles are waste! So what!
Here’s what the designation means. It means that the response to their showing up as excess, or unwanted, is preordained. We are not even going to think of them as useful. No, they are garbage. We need to find some place to put them where no one will notice them, such as in a hole in the ground. Or we need to destroy them, whatever that means. And along the way, we need to hire specialized experts (garbage companies of course) to take them off our hands. So big surprise: the government is insuring extra, and very profitable, business for garbage companies.
“But they are being recycled, not given to garbage companies!” I hear you saying. Are you aware that the entire recycling business is in the hands of the garbage industry? The big recycling ventures are all run by garbage companies like Veolia, Waste Management, Allied Waste, Browning Ferris and many more. Any neighborhood recyclers are forced to send their collections to one of the big garbage company recyclers.
The particular articles that the government designates are:
- All chemicals – hazwaste
- chemicals used by householders such as cleaners or paints – household hazwaste
- chemicals found inside bigger articles such as electronics – e-waste
- chemicals used for personal services such as medicines or medical equipment – medwaste
- chemicals connected with living organisms or tissues – biowaste
- radioactive isotopes from nuclear power – radwaste
It is the government which insists that these chemicals be called by waste names. This nomenclature is enforced by some of the most draconian fines you have ever imagined. The original legislation (~1980) declaring any chemical not used for 90 days to be hazardous waste and demanding that it be managed by a garbage company. threatened a fine against the malefactor of $25,000 and a year in jail FOR EVERY DAY OF NON-COMPLIANCE! I believe these punishments were never applied to anyone but they were intended instead to launch a new era of conformity and fear of regulation. The environmentalists applauded. And the previous normal was indeed horrific and needed changing. But the result has been predictable. The chemical garbage companies achieved profits and respectability they could not have dreamed of. All intelligent methods of response were outlawed and clever innovation was defined as criminal. Burial and destruction methods were enthroned and bitterly enforced. While we all profited from the temporary revulsion against overt, visible and irresponsible pollution, we all do and will continue to suffer from the more invisible, less in-your-river kinds of pollution. Millions of tons a month of chemicals are now injected miles underground into unknown spaces, caverns, sand, spent aquifers and other unknown and unknowable locations to react and spread out and contaminate an entire strata of the earth. Out of sight for now and therefore not being challenged. Someday, mankind will discover a wealth of needed resources deep underground, in places where technology can’t take us yet, and we will discover that the whole new landscape was incredibly contaminated by the laziness, greed and stupidity of 21st century barbarity.
For the Zero Waste take on so-called e-waste, see this archive of this website and also several other of the Archives.
How does the government actually force the public to denigrate actually usable articles by calling them waste. There are many publicly sponsored electronic collection events. As you can read in these Archives, there is never any light shown on what will happen to the collected electronics, merely where to take them. The public never asks any hard questions.
Here is what the state goverment offers Illinois is typical. What is the real point of this collection event? They have removed the original announcement but all it stated was locations, times, charges and other trivia of the collection. Nothing about the fate of the collected goods. (Late breaking news: they are closing down the electronic collection sites – clearly they began to recognize the clash between their claims and reality. But why did they decide to do this only a week after I published the following criticism? Intriguing, n’est ce pas?)
Clearly it is used to acclimatize the public to the idea that their electronic excesses just need to go somewhere. God forbid that there should be a new way to design the products, their purchase, their packaging and the way that they are used so that they do not end up as unusable discards.
All that they provide is a listing of how they will COLLECT the electronics. Nothing about what happens to them. Try pursuing that question on this page. Scroll down to the bottom and click on How SWALCO Recycles Your Electronics. You will be told that Sims is a “Global Leader”. Then find the drop down menu for How Does it Work. You will learn again that Sims is a Global Leader. Then you will be shown an empty page and told to click on the non-existent diagram. So much for what happens to electronic goods. Hint: they are still being dumped in Chinese or Nigerian villages the same as before. The goods were made to be discarded and nothing can change that..
This kind of meaningless collection is absolutely typical of electronic collection events around the USA.