We really spent only one class session discussing e-waste, but I think it is a really important topic. The starting point of our discussion was “The Electronic Wasteland”, which originally aired on CBS’s 60 Minutes. It is a startling video. I think it is something we should be sharing with our friends and families
When I have had old computers to recycle, I have taken them to either FreeGeek Columbus (which seems to be defunct) or Ohio Drop Off. I assume my old electronics were reused or recycled responsibly, but I have no way of knowing for sure. And even if there are good places that recycle electronics responsibly, there will be others that don’t. It is much cheaper to recycle electronics in developing countries that have little health and environmental regulation or enforcement than it is to do the recycling around here. As long as that is true, there will be businesses that send electronics to the “wasteland” in order to save money — even if it means making people sick and polluting the land.
In class, we mentioned a few possible solutions to the e-waste problem. One idea was to design electronics with more replaceable and upgradable parts. That way things do not become obsolete as quickly, and there is less total e-waste. Another idea was to add to the cost of electronics a fee that would be refunded only if the item was returned to an authorized center for recycling. (This is similar to how some states handle recycling of bottles and cans.)
What are some other solutions? What are the pros and cons of each solution?