Chinese Manufacturing Pollution

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Shagas, Aug 30, 2014.

  1. Shagas

    Thread Starter Active Member

    May 13, 2013
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    Hello ,

    After going on a long Ebay shopping spree for cheap Chinese electronic modules it got me thinking about
    why these modules are so cheap and why board such as Arduino clones are so much cheaper than their original
    counterparts.

    I know that for one , these modules undergo little or no testing and that their production quality is lower than the original but I'm interested to know if there is more to it.
    Particularly I'm interested if the low price is partially due to those manufacturers neglecting environmental/pollution standards , or if they are buying raw materials/precursors/half-products from manufacturers which are neglecting these standards.

    I've seen many videos and pictures of severe pollution in China and I have an acquaintance who returned from
    an exchange semester in China and said that the air was horrible.
    What my question eventually boils down to is the following:

    Am I supporting air/land pollution in china by buying cheap chinese electronics/clones/spinoffs from ebay and other similar places?

    *Ps: I know that someone is going to mention that original Arduino boards is manufactured in Italy.
    I know.
     
  2. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
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    yes.. when you have "slave labor" and don't have environmental costs or agency approval costs or medical/dental benefits or safety concerns or governmental taxes and on and on and on and on and on and on.. products are cheap.

    we are all supporting it with little or no choice..

    even if you "buy american" (or your local region) you are more than likely still supporting it as many of the raw materials might come from there or "conflict mineral" countries,etc..
     
  3. NorthGuy

    Active Member

    Jun 28, 2014
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    Since PCBs are done with the same equipment everywhere, I think the impact of production on pollution should be similar regardless of where they're made.
     
  4. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
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    Unless you are buying chemicals that take multiple steps to produce, the cost of handling waste correctly vs. incorrectly has little to do with the price you pay.

    The three aspects that cause prices of small components to be cheaper are...
    - you may be buying overstock (over-run) materials that an assembler bought for a project and had extra. Extra may have been intentional (to help his bother-in-laws ebay store or accidental
    - The value of industrial equipment in China is looked at much differently than american companies look at it. American companies must incorporate the depreciated value (e.g. 10% of purchase price) into the 'cost' of their product each year when they calculate profit/loss. Chinese producers seem to ignore the value of their investment or it may be subsidized by local or national government through various economic boosting grants (or partial ownership by the government body)
    -or-
    - When ordering small volumes of parts (or many small quantities of small parts), processing the order is actually more expensive than the components themselves (depending on the types of parts you are buying). Imagine that an order picker has to walk down an aisle of a warehouse to get 3 resistors for you. Those resistors, in quantity on Digikey.com (Minnesota) cost $0.004 when you buy 5000. But cost $0.10 when you buy 1. Either way, someone has to walk down the aisle or some mechanical equipment (that was expensive) has to gather the order for you. In china, they value that order gathering much differently because labor is so much cheaper and they expect less margin (profit) than Digikey for the order processing costs.

    Finally, there is a loop in the postage treaties - The shipping country gets to collect the money and the destination country must deliver. China is collecting almost nothing on export shipments. Since shipping is a major part of getting a part, it is possible to order just a small quantity of parts and have the total eBay price come in lower than the postage alone from a US supplier.
     
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  5. djsfantasi

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 11, 2010
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    I think I understand what you are saying, but I find it hard to believe that handling dangerous chemicals used in manufacture is that trivial a contributor to cost. First scenario, let's build a large container and the necessary plumbing to capture all spent dangerous chemicals. Build two or three because the chemicals cannot be mixed. Maybe we fill drums if the waste and truck them out or maybe we fill tanker trucks to move the waste. Pay the necessary fees to register and certify our waste management. Then, move the chemicals to a hazardous waste disposal facility and pay for processing.

    Or use a backhoe to dig a pit and dump everything into the ground. (Read "A Civil Action" on Wikipedia)

    Which is less expensive?
     
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  6. loosewire

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 25, 2008
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    China ,may use off shore labor , helping to build the economy of poor countries. I saw a video of Iraq women going to other countries to

    learn how to solder p c boards and take that information back and teach it to other women . All of the poor countries have economic

    exchanges now. Cheap labor is moving thru trade agreements , like oil and gas exports. Google how many countries there are now ,sitting

    in seats around the U.N. trade table. All you hear now , travel to an area to open up trade with

    other countries ,a lot of p c boards. The waste is in all these countries.
     
  7. Brownout

    Well-Known Member

    Jan 10, 2012
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    I completely agree. Same reason e-waste is sent to China for processing.
     
  8. takao21203

    Distinguished Member

    Apr 28, 2012
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    That is not correct. I have access to the actual rates tables from chinese and Hong Kong post. A supplier showed me the information. The rates are lower, but not like "almost zero". And the chinese do have 25 grams increments.

    On small orders they loose money. There is no such thing as "free shipping subsidized by chinese government".
    On Aliexpress some suppliers actually charge nearly 20% shipping cost.

    The fact is, for the chinese the world is a commodity. All their export is less than their domestic use. Look the japanese. They have too many policies and what happened? How many japanese companies sell electric parts on ebay? Is there even just one?

    Also the typical electric components used privately are not new technology. The equipment is old already, and it costs next to nothing to keep it running. You'd wonder what some components really cost, exclusive shipping as 1000pcs bags.
     
  9. Shagas

    Thread Starter Active Member

    May 13, 2013
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    I disregarded cheap labor because most of the stuff is smd pick&place automated but I guess there are the people who have to take the pcb trays out of the line and package them and take the box from one place to the other etc.
     
  10. takao21203

    Distinguished Member

    Apr 28, 2012
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    So the 20 minutes it takes to assemble your order, wrap it, label it + ship it isnt labour- multiplied with 300 orders a day...
     
  11. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
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    Djsfantasi,
    An arduino Max board from Arduino or distributor costs $60 and a clone from China costs $20. How many gallons of waste are generated to make an assembled Arduino board or clone? (0.1, 0.3, 1, 3, 10). I would estimate 0.1 to gallons or less if you include all component production as well as board-level assembly - you are free to pick another number.

    The cost of disposal, aqueous waste, is about $5 per gallon. About $0.5 per finished board (whether you pay for a Chinese clone or an original (I consider that insignificant).

    Cost of containers, about $600 each for a tote (1000 liter for a small- scale producer) for a new tote and less than $200 for a used (washed) container...
    http://www.amazon.com/SCH%dcTZ-SO1-223-SCHUTZ-Economy/dp/B002S4F9XE/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=undefined&sr=8-3&keywords=Ibc tote#productDescription

    Drums are available for less. Like electronic components, the more you buy, the less they cost. Buying a truckload of new Schuetz totes in Houston area cost less than $200 each and used totes in cities known for chemical manufacturing are much less.

    I'm not going to say whether or not waste is handled correctly in China. I do know that there have been some death sentences related to waste disposal there. Even with death sentences, improper waste disposal still happens in China. The story you mentioned, A Civil Action, resulted in a $68M fine - improper disposal still happens in the US. It also happens in Italy where real Arduino boards are made.

    In summary, storage containers, collection, shipment and processing of chemical waste are a minor cost of an Arduino board delivered to your door - if done correctly. The cost of doing it wrong is expensive to the environment and expensive to the operator of the waste generating site.
     
  12. Shagas

    Thread Starter Active Member

    May 13, 2013
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    <Quote>
    So the 20 minutes it takes to assemble your order, wrap it, label it + ship it isnt labour- multiplied with 300 orders a day...
    </Quote>

    Well if its performed by a non-human then It's not 'labour' right? Isn't it just called "Assembly cost" ?
     
  13. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    Humans are always in the loop. Machine operators, Maintenance Techs (machines can be finicky), and Engineers are all part of the process.
     
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  14. NorthGuy

    Active Member

    Jun 28, 2014
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    Pricing has nothing to do with production costs. The prices are determined by supply and demand.

    There's more demand for genuine Arduino boards (as opposed to Chinese clones) and less supply. So, prices are higher. They could've sold more (and cheaper) Arduino boards by themselves, but they feel that selling less for higher price is better for their business. This gives them higher margin.

    Chinese guys, on the other hand, would be happy to sell for higher prices, but they can't because of the harsh competition from other Chinese selling the same stuff. So, their margin is slim to none.
     
  15. alfacliff

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 13, 2013
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    then you consider the dumping of their industrial waste by sending us toys painted with lead based paint, and childrens jewlry containing lead, not to mention all the dog treats and such containing melamine to boost the aparent protien in dog treats and such. melamine is an industrial solvent,.
     
  16. ronv

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 12, 2008
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    I think you need to look at the entire process from raw material to finished product. Then look at it from the standpoint of free labor. A few years ago I ran into some guys that were taking apart a copper refinery and shipping it to China. The mine had been shut down for some time so I expect the equipment was very cheap. To make money in the US mining copper almost the whole process is automated - even the trucks. But if you don't worry about labor costs or availability the old equipment was a steal. Add to that the environmental protections: They have been trying to get a new mine south of Tucson for 5 or 6 years now. Millions invested in studies and redesigns that the Chinese don't worry about - yet. Same way with counterfeit chips. Who needs a wire bonder if you have a thousand girls with a magnified glass.
    Used to build disk heads in the Philippines. We had 7000 girls winding 20 30 turns of 32 gage wire thru a magnetic core about the size of a gnats arm. We could make heads cheaper than the thin film guys for a long time until the technology got to far advanced for the materials. So for lower tech stuff labor is a great equalizer.
     
  17. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
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    .
    Melamine is a monomer used to make melamine plastics (paper coating for old-school melamine dishes, Formica counter tops and various fiber-board binders. It is not a waste product/co-product of chemical production. Because it is high in nitrogen, it was added to milk products to fool the simple protein tests done on milk products.

    Lead-based pigments and lead oxide (white base pigment) are not co-products or chemical waste generated in significant volumes by the chemical industry. Lead-based pigments are simply cheaper, brightly covered and fade resistant pigments that are commonly available in china. Nothing associated with chemical waste. The lead oxide is also a cheap substitute for the titanium oxide base white filler/pigment that is used in Architectural coatings in the US. Nothing associated with waste from other chemical processes.
     
  18. takao21203

    Distinguished Member

    Apr 28, 2012
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    How many pieces of painted toys and childrens jewellery do you typically buy in a year?
     
  19. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    Does it matter? Someone bought it, and people and pets were injured or killed. These were actual events, though I disagree with them being waste (good point in post #17).
     
  20. takao21203

    Distinguished Member

    Apr 28, 2012
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    When I go to loccal shops I have difficulties to find just any painted toys or glass jewellery.

    Plastic toys are normally dye coloured.

    Lead red also is very characteristic in appearance.
     
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