Filed under: Local Events + Action, Waste + Recycling | Tags: Basel Action Network, computers, e-waste, electronics, Kansas, recycling, RoHS
Not all electronics rest in peace. Photo credit: electricbrains
I am a nerd. I like Nintendo and computers and gadgets. I work at an electronics store. I wear glasses and I know a lot of keyboard commands.
But, I am an environmentalist as well. I tend to eat local, organic, and slow foods. I bike to get around. I compost and recycle. I drink from a reusable bottle and I’m an environmental studies major.
These two parts of my personality have never really gone hand in hand in the past. The technology world tends to discards the slower, older, near useless gizmo for the slimmer, faster, sexier new model. On the other hand, one of the core environmental messages is to consume less. Turn your lights off, conserve water, etc.
And so I’m a bit torn. How do I deal with such conflict?
First let’s admit that we need technology. I don’t want to think about life without a computer. But at the same time, many electronics contain heavy metals like lead, mercury, and cadmium. These metals make producing electronics cheaper, but are very hazardous. Once in landfills, they leach toxins into the very groundwater we drink from.
There are a number of electronic waste recyclers that will take your stuff, but there are few that can be entirely trusted. If these companies don’t send your e-waste to the landfill, they will ship it overseas where it will be smashed and burned to extract precious metals. The hazardous materials end up in the land and water of poorer regions of the world. Check out this New York Times article on the after life of cell phones for examples of where your e-waste typically ends up.
Don’t you worry, Kansans, there are environmentally responsible options for you. You can try Asset Life Cycle in Topeka or the Surplus Exchange in Kansas City, MO. Both have no landfill, no exporting policies and take all kinds of e-waste.
Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to go level my Pokemon in peace. I mean, uh, read that new Michael Pollan book…
For more great resources on eco-smart electronics and e-waste regulation try:
ban.org – The Basel Action Network works to prevent overseas shipping of e-waste.
RoHS Compliance – The RoHS initiative was designed to eliminate heavy metals and other harmful substances from electronics.
Kansas Organization of Recyclers – KOR works to manage all sorts of recycling in Kansas.
Energy Star – Energy Star was designed to improve the energy efficiency of electronics.
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