When I first started giving workshops on implementing lead-free assembly, I started to learn about WEEE/RoHS. At first, like many, I had trouble understanding why these laws were enacted, after all, no study showed that lead was leached into landfills from e-waste. Then I understood that RoHS was intended to make recycling easier. I marvel at how many industry leaders still don't seem to understand this point.
An article in National Geographic's January 2008 issue showed how much of our e-waste is being recycled in the 3rd world countries. The people performing the recycling are doing it in uncontrolled and unsafe conditions. This article was quite troubling.
Then along came CBS news with another article on the topic. This article called "Following The Trail Of Toxic E-Waste", was extremely unsettling, much of our e-waste is being smuggled into China and harming poor people who recycle it. The people have little alternative but to work under very toxic conditions. The worst area is a town called Guiyu. This article is must reading for those that think RoHS is a big blunder.
RoHS was developed to make recycling safer in the EU, in time as non-RoHS compliant products fade from the waste stream, it will help these poor people in towns like Guiyu to live safer lives.
The photo, courtesy of Custom Analytical Services is of a woman recycling in unsafe conditions.