According to a report, “Tackling High Tech Trash,” by Demos, a non-partisan public policy research and advocacy organization, Americans now own 3 billion electronic products with a turnover rate of about 400 million units annually.
We now have one computer for every six people on the planet. This turnover is making a mountain of waste. The EPA estimates 3.16 million tons of gadgets got pitched in 2007 and 2008, and less than 14 percent of them were recycled. Even that piddling 14 percent is not really such a good thing. We ship much of it to developing countries where it is recycled in ways that are unsafe to the workers and the environment.
High tech electronics, especially older equipment now in the waste stream, are spewing hazardous and toxic materials like cadmium, lead, mercury, polybrominated diphenylethers, tetrabromobisphenol A, and hexabromocyclododecane. PVC from wire coating and packaging releases carcinogens when burned. The list goes on and on.
Reuse trumps recycling. We should all try to find homes for any gadget we don’t want that still work. We ought to get as much good out of our gadgets as we can before we discard them, and they start poisoning the world. The EPA has a list of outlets for recycling, donating or trading in this stuff. Check out this page. You’ll be amazed how many corporations are getting into e-cycling. (I didn’t see RadioShack on the list, but I know they have a trade in policy for used gadgets too.)
More from the Tackling Trash report:
- 211 million TVs sold worldwide in 2009. Americans own TVs per household.
- Apple sold 20 million iPods in the first quarter of 2010.
- 1.2 billion cell phones sold worldwide in 2009. About 1/3 of all cell phones sold are now smart phones.
I’m not about to give up my cell phone, and I really love listening to recorded books on my iPod. I’m writing this and you are reading it on computers. All these gizmos that we suddenly can’t seem to live without.
I’m trying to use them more mindfully and treat them like the incredibly useful but dangerous devices that they really are.