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Friday, June 10, 2005

Waste not...

want no e-garbage. What do you do with your ‘old’ technology? I know that in the office, our old tech is getting newer. We used to have lags of more than 5 years to get a new computer, or copy machine, or fax. Now they are replaced every couple of years. We just had a lot of PCs replaced that had nothing wrong with them. They had plenty of speed and memory, no problems, and were used primarily for email and internet goofing around. Yes, this is where your state taxes are going, folks.

Cities and counties have to cope as best they can with this e-waste, a major problem today as our piles of high-tech garbage grow. Some landfills are not equipped to handle high tech garbage, which often contains unsafe elements that have to be stripped from the machines before disposal. Other sites charge a fee.

Charles Cooper’s perspective today on C/net, Time to clean up tech's act has to do with this problem. Cooper points to San Francisco where e-waste is obvious, and some ways people are trying to deal with the growing situation. A spokesman for a Bay area a nonprofit program that takes in old computers said that, "We handled over 12 million pounds of electronics last year. This year, we've already doubled that number--and it's only June."

Jim Lynch of TechSoup.org pointed out problems inherent in trying to donate equipment to schools and nonprofits. Outdated tech is often left at thrift shop or charity drop off sites. Lynch explained that outdated equipment is not saleable, and all people really do is transfer the disposal problem to a non-profit who has even less resources for disposal than the average person. Organizations such as the Salvation Army often have to deny such donations today. His site explains,

“The "Exporting Harm" PDF report estimates that 50 to 80 percent of U.S. e-waste ends up in Asia. Experts debate the exact number, but the practice is quite common in several countries and is creating some of the most concentrated lead pollution on the planet. Electronics scrap brokers buy e-waste legally in this country, are able to get favorable shipping rates, and then low-wage workers are hired to pull re-sellable components and heavy metals, like copper yokes out of CRT monitors. The real problem is the incapability of the U.S. to recycle or reuse the 50 million or so computers being disposed of each year.”

Consumer and political demand has prompted some computer manufacturers such as Dell, HP, and IBM to take responsibility with recycling and disposal programs.

Apple announced a free recycling program for the iPod recently, urging customers to bring their players to Apple retail stores for disposal. Yahoo! News reported that “the company has been under siege from environmentalists, who say the company hasn't done enough to promote recycling of its products, which often end up in landfills in the United States and in developing countries.” Apple said their recycling program is environmentally friendly, and that hazardous computer parts would not be shipped overseas.

So, what do you do?

1. Get involved – try to get your community to at least look for ways to manage this problem. After all, it is in your backyard. So far we’ve seen nothing come out of the new Congressional E-Waste Working Group. Instead, check out SVTC’s Clean Computer Campaign, and the Electronics Recycling Initiative.
2. Keep your old tech longer – be frugal – do you really need a new cell phone or computer?
3. IF it is in good shape and still useable - give it to someone who can use it – let your kids use it for computer games, give it to the kids next door, donate it to a nursing home or retirement center.
4. Cell phones – look around. There are a ton of cell phone drop off places that give the phone to homeless shelters and abuse centers. These phones are still useable for emergency use even with no regular phone service.
5. Yard sales, garage sales - you’d be surprised. Really old tech is in demand by collectors, and you can get a good price on EBay for it.
6. 10 things to do with old PCs from PC Magazine.

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