In the last few years, a series of forces have collided to generate a bizarre tipping point in the value of our used phones and computers. No longer is e-waste the simple story of destitute families in the East picking apart computers from the wealthy West.
The world’s market-ready supply of rare earth minerals is today monopolized by China. These are the vital building blocks found in nearly all electronicproducts. China supplies an incredible 97% of the world’s rare earth minerals market – but inthe face of booming domestic needs, international exports have been slashed. Globally, until more mines are opened up, mining companies and manufacturers are increasingly forced to see used electronics as a commodity.
There are few industries less understood, less monitored and less controlled than the global electronic waste industry. It is a vast cauldron of entrepreneurs, black markets, corporate competition, mining interests and impassioned visionaries drawing opportunity out of crisis – with virtually no authority, restriction or control.
It is here, within the shadow of the immense information technology boom, and as corporations, governments and NGOs are trying to track new economic opportunities, that we find our story.
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