February 16, 2012

The Inconvenient Truth About Electronic Waste.

We export enough e-waste each year to fill 5126 shipping containers (40 ft x 8.5 ft each).

If you stacked them up, they’d reach 8 miles high–higher than Mt Everest, or commercial flights. Exported to poor countries, the stuff is taken apart for metals in horrific working conditions.

This—plus weak labor standards in China and many of the other developing countries where e-waste is sent—means that women and children are often directly exposed to lead and other hazardous materials.

Then there’s the stuff that remains here. In the United States, an estimated 70% of heavy metals in landfills comes from discarded electronics.

You’d think there’d be a law for discarding e-waste but, to date, there’s no Federal mandate. There are, however, 20 states and one municipality with e-waste laws. Find out if your state is on board here:  National Electronics Recycling Infrastructure Clearinghouse.

Check out Annie Leonard’s  Story of Stuff Project video, The Story of Electronics (great to share with kids):

What you can do…

  1. Treat your electronics with TLC in order to extend the lifespan.
  2. Recycle your electronics. Not sure how to do this? Refer to the Recycle It Right guide from The Story of Stuff Project. You can also register with ecycler to find someone who may actually pay you for your used electronics. Or, visit earth911.com to find a recycling location near you.
  3. Buy greener electronics. GreenPeace’s Guide to Electronics is a great resource. For energy-saving products, to to EnergyStar.gov.
  4. Buy refurbished electronics.
  5. Take a minute before you accept that cell phone upgrade. Do you really need it?
  6. Share this post with friends and family via facebook, twitter or large—but not overly obnoxious, preferably used—bullhorn from a mountain (preferably one that still has its top intact).

* originally posted on my blog, I Count for myEARTH.

photos: manowar064 via flickr.com

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Lynn J. Broderick  |  Contribution: 36,680