Friday, April 4, 2008

E-Waste: How to Dispose Old Computers, Phones and other retired tech stuff

The march of obsolescence and consumers’ voracious appetite for acquiring new things generates so much waste that we humans may be buried alive before climate change catches up with us.

RIP: Rest in peace ... and pieces ... ol’ electronics

The issue figured big at several tech-focused conferences this April. At FOSE, the government-centric tech show, panelists discussed the growing need for detailed procedures, and not just vague “green” commitments, for disposing and recycling tech equipment and supplies. This represents a growth market for vendors.

Secure disposal of computers and other tech devices containing work, personal and other sensitive data is becoming a big business. e-End is one of the “Electronics End of Life” companies that pairs environmentally responsible recycling with “total sanitation” of your electronic equipment. Benefits include pick up and an “unbroken chain-of-custody from your facility to ours”). This one’s in Frederick, MD. Check out

Insiders at the Consumer Electronics Association’s Washington Forum also discussed electronics recycling. There’s an emerging market worldwide for dismantling and recycling/reusing the components of decommissioned electronics. But in addition to economic questions are moral ones.

For example, while it’s good to support dismantling and reuse businesses in developing nations, what about those in which the employees are exposed to toxic materials and not protected from injury? Or businesses with practices that while harvesting the high-value raw materials still discard low-value stuff in an un-green manner – even allowing toxins and other pollutants to contaminate the environment?

What’s needed: proper recycling infrastructure and practices. And to protect people and the environment: monitoring – self, industry/peer and the nonlibertarian fallback of government oversight.

Some states have enacted requirements for manufacturers to bear some responsibility for managing used materials. A trend: some recyclers do initial dismantling in the U.S. and then sending partially dismantled parts abroad.

Got old stuff to trash? Here are sources to help you get it recycled/reused instead of filling landfills:

Environmentally and socially responsible recycling for mobile phones, pagers and PDAs

Share the Technology
Locates organizations that process equipment for reuse instead of recycling

Computers for Schools
Locates schools seeking tech goods

Cristina Foundation
Supports training of the disabled, homeless and underserved youths through donated technology

Consumer Electronics Association
Guide to electronics reuse and recycling and locating to electronics recyclers by zip code:
Simple, safe, environmentally responsible way to recycle; provides free shipping and ensures personal data is cleared.

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