I was watching television the other night when I saw a commercial from Best Buy. The retailer now offers a trade in/buyback program for electronics. This got me thinking about how rapidly the world is changing. We don’t keep electronics as long as we used to. Remember when you would get a new cell phone every 3 or 4 years? Now, we buy a new phone every 6 months to a year. In the past, we would have a broken device repaired. Today, we throw any malfunctioning gadgets in the trash and buy new ones.
Have you ever wondered where it ends up? Much of it reappears in third world countries such as Nigeria and Paraguay. Although the United States and other developed countries have various regulations to prevent illegal dumping, many world developing nations do not. Devices like the CRT televisions of the past contain hazardous chemicals. Young children tear them apart for copper and other expensive scrap metals. Without the proper tools or protection, these children expose themselves to the hazardous materials within, such as Lead. Exposure to Lead can lead to intellectual impairment, nervous, blood, and reproductive system damage. Even flat-panel monitors contain mercury. When these end up in landfills, they poison nearby drinking water.
According to Greenpeace International, Electronic waste is more than five percent of all municipal solid waste worldwide. That’s an estimated 20-50 million tons of toxic trash generated every year. Think of it as enough e-waste to lap the equator! Here in the United States, retailers like Radio Shack have begun to offer trade-in and buy-back programs. Organizations such as Goodwill recycle old electronics also. If you really want to help two worthy causes at once, donate your old phones to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The organization receives proceeds from the sale of refurbished phones. Some non-profits directly offer phones to battered victims for emergency phone calls.
Before recycling your old electronic devices, be sure to erase your information. Use a program like Darik’s Boot N Nuke to wipe the hard drive in your computer. Your personal devices retain confidential information even after you delete the files. Remember doing your taxes last year, or buying concert tickets with your credit card? Information like that can be used to steal your identity – if left behind. Avoid the damage to your credit report by performing a complete wipe. BE VERY CAREFUL WITH BOOT N NUKE: IT PERFORMS A DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE-LEVEL WIPE. THE DATA IS UNRECOVERABLE ONCE IT’S DONE.
A social shift in the way we dispose of our increasingly obsolete electronics is growing as we discover the effect on our planet. Just as new technology connects us with a person half way across the globe, the way we recycle that technology affects an entire village half way across the globe. With a little effort, we can change how we interact with the other humans sharing the the planet.