[Beowulf] Fwd: Recycling old nodes without poisoning Indian
Robert G. Brown
rgb at phy.duke.edu
Sat Apr 16 08:26:25 PDT 2005
Apropos of the discussion to help Jeff write his next column (I'm
jealous -- I still gotta do MINE:-) I'm offering the following, which is
a column-in-a-box on this sent to me by a couple of folks last year who
wanted/want to see this added to my online book as well. So Jeff can
use this (and should! CWM is a great venue for making this information
available) under the condition that I ALSO get to put it into my book as
of the next revision.
Note that there is more than just this, and that that recycling old
nodes is often not free. Minimally you have to ship nodes to where they
can be recycled safely. Duke doesn't AFAIK actually ship old PCB's for
recycling, but they do recycle all CRT monitors (which have leaded
screens) and currently charge a $10/monitor handling fee back to the
grants for this purpose. A University COULD manage full recycling of
all Unversity-owned equipment by adding a surcharge like this, but I
personally would prefer that this all be bundled together and charged
when the hardware is initially purchased simply because the grant that
purchased hardware is likely all finished 3-4 years later in any given
A few other notes from this series of exchanges will follow without
Robert G. Brown http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567 Fax: 919-660-2525 email:rgb at phy.duke.edu
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 3 Dec 2004 07:56:31 -0500
From: Bill Taylor <wataylor at as-st.com>
To: Robert G.Brown <rgb at phy.duke.edu>
Subject: Fwd: Recycling old nodes without poisoning Indian chlidren
I am beginning to get some information about recycling computer nodes.
I'll keep forwarding this to you until it appears that we either find a
way or approach diminishing returns. Let me know when that appears to
Begin forwarded message:
> From: "John Carroll" <carroll at dsuper.net>
> Date: December 3, 2004 1:58:22 AM EST
> To: "Bill Taylor" <wataylor at as-st.com>
> Subject: Re: Recycling old nodes without poisoning Indian chlidren
> I respond in two ways to your enquiry abour Noranda Recycling:
> 1. I have identified a few web references that may be useful.
> You will probably enjoy a couple of minutes reminding yourself about
> some of Noranda's locations and operations by flipping briefly through
> the following websites:
> The first is an Interesting introduction to various aspects of
> Norandas Electronic recycling
.example when you view this first page
> click on Introduction (in L.H.side panel) and then click on "Our
> Sites" to see a map with current locations.........Rhode Island is the
> nearest to you.
> http://www.recycle.net/trade/aa026395.html Traders and Recyclers
> http://www.recyclingtoday.com/News/news.asp?Id=3707 Electronic
> Recycling in Canada (Brampton)
> 2. I have forwarded your request about Noranda Electronic
> Recycling to Tony Nathanson, who has been more directly linked to some
> Noranda employee participant in Recycling than I have been. Tony
> intends to correspond with you, though this may take a few days
> because I know that he is engaged in a hot issue at present.
> Hope some of this is the type of information that may be
> interesting/useful to your friend Robert Brown at Duke.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Bill Taylor
> To: John Carroll
> Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 2004 12:47 PM
> Subject: Fwd: Recycling old nodes without poisoning Indian chlidren
> This gentleman builds super computers by linking standard PCs into
> networks. He does BIG problems so his systems have hundreds of nodes,
> each node being a PC. He retires them every 3 years or so so each
> year, he has to get rid of a LOT of PCs. He knows a number of people
> on his mailing list with the same problem.
> When I read about it, I remembered that Noranda recycles electronic
> things pretty effectively. Do you know whom he ought to contact at
> Noranda to see how to get stuff to them? Or is he too far away such
> that transportation would be prohibitive?
> He dislikes the fact that many PCs are recycled by hand by Indian
> children who end up dying of arsenic poisoning and such like.
> Can Noranda help?
> PS He wrote a book about what he is doing, go to
> This has a link to his book which is available on line. The last few
> pages describe the problem of recycling nodes.
> I found his book to be fascinating, I like supercomputers. Your
> Noranda background would probably suggest a number of problems which
> could be solved with his ideas.
> Begin forwarded message:
> From: "Robert G. Brown" <rgb at phy.duke.edu>
> Date: December 1, 2004 9:59:58 AM EST
> To: wataylor at alum.mit.edu
> Subject: Re: Recycling old nodes without poisoning Indian chlidren
> On Tue, 30 Nov 2004, Bill Taylor wrote:
> The Noranda mining company in Canada has a copper smelter which is
> next to an empty copper mine. They keep it running by sending
> trainloads of electronic-ish scrap up there and turning it into
> copper ingots. The other stuff burns off; even arsenic, etc. go away
> nicely at zillions of degrees. They use very little fuel because the
> plastic burns pretty hot.
> Well, arsenic (being an element) doesn't "go away" -- at best it is
> oxidized. If it is then dumped into the atmosphere and hence biosphere,
> it is a problem in the ecosystem surrounding the mine -- it will
> eventually get into the water and the vegetation. Some arsenic (I'm
> sure) is natural and normal in the environment. One would have to look
> carefully to see whether they are pushing local arsenic levels up.
> There are a few other elements to worry about in such a process (such
> mercury from e.g. batteries, although I think most PC batteries are
> lithium these days -- at least I hope so). Burning plastic and epoxy
> and paint and chlorinated hydrocarbons in general can also generate a
> variety of nasty stuff if it isn't done "right". So one hopes that they
> use a thoughtful process that really does break the plastic down and
> burn it in such a way that the active carcinogen production is minimal.
> Otherwise this sounds like a lovely operation.
> The ship the copper back to Montreal and electro-refine them using
> hydro electric power. This results in 99. they won't tell me how many
> nines pure copper and all the gold, cobalt, etc., are separated out
> rather neatly.
> The trouble is shipping the computers up there. They get a lot of old
> phones and electronics from Canada, but the US lags.
> In a pure dollar point of view, the US imports more from Asia than it
> exports so empty containers go back mostly for free. It costs nothing
> to ship old computers to India so the Indian children can recycle them
> toxically by hand; it costs something to ship them to Canada where
> could be recycled more completely and with no illnesses.
> But I have friends who know the Noranda company well if you'd like to
> get some details to put in that part of your book. I don't know what
> could be done, but I could ask my Noranda-ites. These particular
> individual happen to be interested in recycling, so they might dig
> for a
> I'd be happy to put a section on their operation into the book. Duke
> does recycle old systems and monitors, and even charges money back to
> grants to do the monitors (which contain quite a bit of lead in their
> screens). Duke is eco-sensitive enough to use biodiesel in their buses;
> one hopes that they they are equally sensitive in their PC recycling
> (but I admit that I don't know).
> Neat book.
> Thanks. I'm HOPING to have enough time over xmas break to do a bit of a
> new revision and add, complete, revise this and that. Too many blank
> chapters, not enough pictures, and the times, they are a changin'...;-)
> Bill Taylor
> Robert G. Brown http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
> Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
> Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
> Phone: 1-919-660-2567 Fax: 919-660-2525 email:rgb at phy.duke.edu
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