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Comment Re:That's why I pay to recycle monitors (Score 2) 266

Although I give a strong weight to first-hand testimony, I get my information from Science magazine, New Scientist, and the New York Times. For example:
The Electronics Revolution: From E-Wonderland to E-Wasteland , Oladele A. Ogunseitan1,*, , Julie M. Schoenung2, , Jean-Daniel M. Saphores3 and , Andrew A. Shapiro4
Science 30 Oct 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5953, pp. 670-671
DOI: 10.1126/science.1176929

Since the mid-1990s, electronic waste (e-waste) has been recognized as the fastest-growing component of the solid-waste stream, as small consumer electronic products, such as cellular phones, have become ubiquitous in developed and developing countries (1). In the absence of adequate recycling policies, the small size, short useful life-span, and high costs of recycling these products mean they are routinely discarded without much concern for their adverse impacts on the environment and public health. These impacts occur throughout the product life cycle, from acquisition of raw materials (2) to manufacturing to disposal at the end of products' useful life.

This creates considerable toxicity risks worldwide (3, 4). For example, the mean concentration of lead in the blood of children living in Guiyu, China, a notorious destination for improper e-waste recycling (5), is 15.3 Âg/dl. There is no known safe level of exposure to lead; remedial action is recommended for children with levels above 10 Âg/dl (6). Polybrominated diphenyl ethers used as flame-retardants in electronics have been detected in alarming quantities (up to 4.1 ppm lipid weight) in California's peregrine falcon eggs, raising the specter of species endangerment (7, 8).

Comment Re:That's why I pay to recycle monitors (Score 1) 266

SWEEEP Kuusakoski. Interesting. They claim they can separate lead and glass profitably. They could be right.

According to TFA, Closed Loop Recycling planned to buy a huge furnace to do just that. Maybe that was the company that made the furnace.

The problem for Closed Loop was that they needed a $16 million loan to buy the furnace, but the lender pulled out (although Closed Loop won a court case with the lender).

I didn't see the word "bankruptcy" in any of those stories. It may be that the cheapest and easiest solution to that mountain of TVs would be to keep Closed Loop going and finally buy a furnace to separate them the way they originally planned.

Or maybe they could ship their TV tubes to one of those European furnaces.

Comment Re:Question of bulk (Score 1) 266

A wastewater engineer once told me that it's a lot easier to purify water when you get the pollution at the source, and it's concentrated, than it is after it's dispersed. So it's easier and cheaper to purify sewage in a sewage treatment plant, than it is after it's been diluted in the Hudson River. It would have been easier and cheaper for General Electric to break down PCBs in their factory than it would be now after it's all in the Hudson River. They will probably never completely clean up the PCBs in the Hudson River. It would be too expensive, and it can be safer to leave it lying in the bottom of the river than to stir it up.

Same with solid waste, like electronic equipment. A few years ago I did a little research on it, and there was a German company that made a big scaled-up blender, with knives that could shred an entire computer or monitor, and I think there are industrial shredders that can shred entire cars. You can separate shredded materials with magnets, pneumatic devices, etc. The problem is cost. Even when they started with clean, separated equipment, it was still expensive, and it could only be profitable in certain circumstances. Copper and aluminum are valuable in commercially pure form, iron less so, and mixed plastics are a problem. Then you're left with shredded fiberboard. Popular Science had a good article about that (but there's lots written). So it can be done, with difficulty, in favorable situations, but the cost/benefit is tricky. When it works it's usually with the help of some kind of government-mandated financial incentive or disincentive. If there's a demand for these shredders, then with the years they should become cheaper and more efficient, but maybe that's my technological optimism talking.

It may be cheaper to mine aluminum and copper directly than to recover it from junk. That depends on whether mining technology improves faster than recycling technology.

But once you've mixed the electronic junk with garbage, paper, plastic, furniture, containers, etc., the difficulty of separating it goes up by orders of magnitude. You have to spend a lot of money just to get it back to where it was when it was collected by the recycling center.

I understand the argument that, "Given enough time, we can solve any problem." It sounds true in principle, but predictions of time are notoriously unreliable. Maybe someone will discover a nanotechnology that will make the copper and aluminum particles in dumps separate and march out like ants into collection bins.

I congratulate you on your optimism. Let me know in 20 years how it turns out.

Comment Re:That's why I pay to recycle monitors (Score 3, Insightful) 266

As TFA says, half of them go to abandoned warehouses in the US. The other half go to Africa and India where low-paid, unprotected workers burn off the insulation and plastic parts to get the copper. I've seen articles about this in the New Scientist and elsewhere.

Comment Re:That's why I pay to recycle monitors (Score 5, Insightful) 266

Besides, even a warehouse full of dead monitors that will basically just sit forever is still a way better scenario than having them polluting a landfill.

Landfills are designed to hold pollution for a long time. If they follow current environmental regulations, they're in a clay pit which is impermeable to any significant leakage. When they're filled, they're covered with a clay top which keeps the rain out. The main goal for leaded glass is to make sure they don't wind up in the drinking water. There are Roman trash heaps which have lasted undisturbed for 2,000 years.

There aren't too many warehouses that have survived 100 years.

Comment Re:UAW scam job (Score 1) 594

It also helps to have employees who aren't total morons. The UAW isn't necessarily needed. Most intelligent people would have razed hell after their first co-worker was injured. It never hurts to have OSHA on speed-dial, and any employer that disagrees with that statement is welcome to pay-me-unemployment-long-time.

Do you know more about workplace safety than I do? Have you ever called OSHA about a safety issue?

First, there are only 2,200 inspectors for 8 million worksites and 130 million workers, so -- to put it one way -- each inspector would have to visit 10 workplaces a day to have one inspection a year.

You can call OSHA, but that doesn't mean they'll show up that day -- or that year. It's simple arithmetic. They don't have the staff to investigate every complaint. They can only investigate the worst complaints, and the ones they can do something about.

That's due in part to cutbacks in conservative, usually Republican, federal and state administrations. I once read some studies by California OSHA on workplace fatalities, and talked to a California OSHA inspector. The studies were very good, and they identified the major causes of electrocutions, which weren't obvious. They saved lives. Then the series was discontinued, and I asked the inspector why. He said, "Ronald Reagan."

There are some industries, and some companies, with good safety records, and some with bad safety records.

The ones with good safety records, like the aircraft industry, or the nuclear power industry, had cooperation between government agencies, private employers, and unions. If you take one leg off that tripod, then you can't do as good a job.

Particularly in the coal mining industry, there were some employers who were just assholes and didn't care about employee safety. They get OSHA fines, they treat the fines as the cost of doing business, and they do a better job of concealing their safety violations. In those outfits, you need all the help you can get, including government agencies and unions, and even so, you'll have needless fatalities.

There are some people who just have an ideological opposition to unions. I can never convince them otherwise.

Comment Re:UAW scam job (Score 1) 594

No, that's not it. My point was in response to the AC.

He didn't believe the union organizer's complaint that there were safety problems at Tesla, because OSHA inspected the plant.

If your complaint is safety in the workplace, it helps to have OSHA inspectors. It also helps to have a union that is concerned about workplace safety.

I've never looked up Tesla's safety record, and I don't know whether they're acceptable, or whether they're better or worse than the rest of the industry. I only know that the AC's assumption was unwarranted.

Comment Re:Not what he said. (Score 1) 594

Ergonomics and on the job injury are dealt with by workers comp, and the company eventually has an incentive to address material issues, especially in California.

Have you ever filed a worker's comp case?

Fortunately, ProPublica has done a story on worker's comp.

In California, if you lose an arm, you get $190,000. How many readers here would be willing to lose an arm for $190,000?

Most of us would rather have an employer who does everything possible to prevent us from losing an arm in the first place. Failing that (and they often fail), we'd like to have a government agency inspecting the workplace, and a strong union, as backup.

Comment Re:Not what he said. (Score 1) 594

Yeah but anyone can join the union right? Its not like its a barrier to employment, so you can't look at someone who isn't currently in the union and say "well at least that guy can't take my job" because he can just join up.

That wouldn't happen. A union would never allow a company to replace expensive workers with cheaper foreign (or domestic) workers. For one thing, that would violate seniority rules. For another thing, union workers aren't stupid enough to let that happen, and unions give them a way of fighting it. Unions have gone on strike over that, even when there was a risk that the company would close down the plant.

Unions are ultimately run by elections, so unions are as good and bad as democracy. Your local congressmen and your local police department can also be pretty corrupt sometimes (or maybe most of the time). But overall, unions, for all their faults, generally protect workers' interests.

Comment Re:UAW scam job (Score 3, Informative) 594

"The hard, manual labor we put in to make Tesla successful is done at great risk to our bodies."

Tesla's plant is heavily automated so I find this unlikely. I also find it unlikely that OSHA has not inspected a 5,000 employee plant for safety and health hazardous issues given how OSHA operates, so this is a questionable statement.

Actually Tesla has failed inspections.
Tesla Motors Fined $89,000 For 7 Safety Violations Linked To Fremont Factory Incident

        “Tesla employees Jesus Navarro, Kevin Carter and Jorge Terrazas were taken to Valley Medical Center in San Jose with second- and third-degree burns. Carter and Terrazas have returned to work. Navarro, who had burns on his hands, stomach, hip, lower back and ankles, was hospitalized for 20 days and continues to recuperate at home.”

        “Cal-OSHA’s investigation found that Tesla failed to ensure that the low-pressure die casting machine was maintained in a safe operating condition and allowed its employees to operate the machine while the safety interlock was broken. It also found that the employees had not been properly trained regarding the hazards of the machine, and were not wearing the required eye and face protection.”

4/25/2014 Tesla Motors, Inc. Fremont Fremont District Office
Serious – 6
General – 1
Violations - 7

  Citations were issued to Tesla Motors, Inc. for six Serious and one General violation. The employer did not conduct periodic inspections of use of a low pressure die casting machine, and allowed employees to continue using the machine after a safety interlock had been damaged, which resulted in injuries to three employees who were sprayed with molten metal. The employer failed to release the air pressure used to inject molten aluminum into molds before servicing, did not maintain the machine in safe operating condition and did not use a protective shield. The employer did not ensure that employees were trained in the hazards of using the machine, and did not ensure that employees used eye and face protection.

Comment Re:Regulations (Score 2) 62

If I were trying to get from West 43rd St. in Manhattan to West 23rd St. between 6 and 8pm (which I often am), there is no algorithm that can find an auto route which is optimal. Every avenue between those streets is stalled in bumper-to-bumper traffic jams. It's faster to walk. By adding more auto traffic, you extend the area of the traffic jams and the hours of the traffic jam. This isn't based on algorithms or theory, it's based the actual experience of New York area traffic over the last 70 years.

In midtown Manhattan, you can't transport more people by adding autos. We're already at (or past) the maximum. When you add more cars, you get bigger traffic jams. That's our experience. There are traffic engineers who study these things and have experience with them in the real world.

And the simple example -- if you like algorithms -- is the traffic accross the Hudson River tunnel. That's been proven theoretically and in real life.

If you know of any real published studies of traffic by engineers who actually work with traffic, I'd like to see them.

Comment Re:Regulations (Score 1) 62

The question is whether the free market or the government can provide better services to the public.

You seem to automatically assume that the free market is always better. I don't know what your evidence is for that. Maybe you're basing it on ideological theories I notice that nowhere in this essay does this author refer to data. Nor did she actually talk to people who oppose Airbnb to find out what their actual arguments are.

I believe that the answer depends on the market, and the best way to answer this question is through empirical observation of the actual facts.

This is an example of the tragedy of the commons, where the continuous calculations of individual self-interest leads to the destruction of the resource for everyone.

One example is ocean fisheries. If every economic actor follows his own greedy self-interest, as the Wall Street Journal editorial page advocates, then they will destroy the fishery, and no one will benefit.

"The Grand Banks: Where Have All the Cod Gone? New Scientist 16 Sept 96 p24

THIRTY years ago, children in Newfoundland could catch fish by dipping a basket into the ocean. Now Canadian research vessels sweep the seas in vain, finding not a single school of cod in what was once the world's richest fishery. The destruction of the Grand Banks cod is one of the biggest fisheries disasters of all time. And science helped make it happen. The Canadian government banned fishing on the Banks in 1992, when scientists discovered there were nearly no adult cod left. That ban is likely to remain in place for at least a decade. Canada has blamed Spaniards, seals and the weather. But the real damage was done by years of "safe" catches that scientists now realise were just the opposite... Cod stocks there collapsed, and the fishery has been totally shut down since 1993, with the loss of 40 000 jobs. "Signs of recovery of the stock are still very small, and in fact some stocks still seem to be in decline," says Cook's co-author, Alan Sinclair of the Canadian government's fisheries department".

New York City tried to charge motorists according to the demand they made on a limited government-provided resource (city streets), by charging them a special tax, and require a special windshield sticker, to drive in midtown manhattan during rush hour, as some European cities have done. Suburban motorists got laws passed against it.

Comment Re:Regulations (Score 1) 62

limiting taxi cabs to X number prevents the streets from being so clogged with taxi cabs that traffic is slowed to a crawl, and even the taxi cabs themselves can't get anywhere.

There were studies of traffic flow, starting with the Holland Tunnel, which showed that you get the maximum flow by limiting traffic. If you allowed unlimited traffic, you just get traffic jams.

Comment Re: Dozens! (Score 1) 109

As I documented in those articles I posted, the ratio of Palestinians killed to Israelis killed is about ten to one. Most of those thousands of rockets fall harmlessly without injuring anyone. A few of them injured Israelis, and even fewer killed Israelis. The Israelis respond with massive retaliation, killing dozens, hundreds or thousands of Palestinians.

As I also documented, the Palestinians have made many proposals to stop the fighting, and Israel has responded by killing the Palestinians who made peace offers and escalating the fighting. Israel's Shortsighted Assassination By Gershon Baskin.

I've been following the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the 1970s. At one time I was raising money for technology development and medical research in Israel. In the 1970s, it made me very uncomfortable to see that the Israelis were killing many Palestinians, and it was rare for a Palestinian to kill an Israeli. What disturbed me most of all was the cases of Israelis killing innocent children -- not teenagers in demonstrations but young children, even 4-year-olds.

I used to wonder why the Palestinians didn't respond to these killings with violence of their own, and finally they did, although the suicide bombings and bus attacks were more horrific than I had ever expected.

The Israelis responded with what their generals and politicians actually called "disproportionate force" (until their laywers told them to shut up because it was a violation of international law). A Palestinian faction (often opposed to Hamas) would fire a rocket which landed harmlessly in a field, and the IDF would respond with a massive response that would kill Palestinians (who sometimes had nothing to do with the original attack).

An MIT professor once prepared a report which showed that the Palestinians would fire a rocket, and the Israelis would fire back with a massive response. Sometimes there would be a long pause in the Palestinian rocket attacks -- and the Israelis would launch another attack to provoke them.

And the IDF would shoot and kill non-violent demonstrators, and innocent bystanders, in incidents reminiscent of Kent State.

There were Palestinian teenagers who had gone to George Soros' "Peace Camp" in New England, who sat around the campfire singing songs with Israeli teenagers, who returned to Israel and were killed by the IDF for doing nothing.

I've read the Amnesty International reports, and the responses from CAMERA and MEMRI, and I've spoken to many Israeli government officials. After investigating and listening to all sides, it was clear to me that the Israelis started the killings, and weren't trying to break the cycle of violence.

The Amnesty International reports were horribly similar to the stories my own relatives told me about the pogroms in Europe.

They taught me, "Wir schweigen nicht." I recommend that lesson to you.

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