It’s what we’re being told to do by every consumer electronics institution on the block, from Best Buy to Apple. But what actually happens to that monitor or PC once we drop it off and slip back into our Prius’s, tutting smugly at passing Hummers?
Well don’t feel so green greenies, because although your PC will no longer end up in a landfill somewhere in Alabama, it WILL be sold by the tonnage (for a healthy profit I might add) to the highest bidding e-waste merchant, who’ll then pile it high on a gas guzzling tanker to be shipped off to Hong Kong. From there it will be resold to another trader until it eventually ends up on the swelling e-waste dumps of China.
Yes – these pictures are real, and these children do die of lead and mercury poisoning as they blow-torch or hack their way through millions of circuit boards.
Still – there are plenty of children where she came from when she reaches a life expectancy of 15 – and plenty of throw-away PCs, laptops, monitors, MP3 players, speakers, headphones, cellphones etc to grow the never ending mountain of e-waste being created to the rapturous sound of iTunes.
I make no secret of my suspicion of recycling programs and the greener than green recycling stores, many of whom actually charge to recycle your e-waste, only to make a clean (or dirty) profit as they shift it along the dirt never ending conveyor belt to China.
Is there an alternative? For an eight year old PC maybe not – none of the internals are up to date, but the real crime is that most of the stuff ending up on e-waste dumps today are between 2 and 3 years old.
The bottom line is that most people today upgrade after about a year or so and leave their old laptop or cellphone lying around in a bottom draw until it’s no longer any good to anyone – before driving down to that (ever so lovely) environmental store with green tea and rose who’ll take it off your hands for $15 – you’ll get back into your Prius, tut at a Hummer and – well I think we’ve been here several million consumers before – Oh what a gravy train – an industry booming at both ends!
If people sold their one or two year old digital cameras, PCs, laptops, cellphones as pre-owned, and if possible, upgraded to another pre-owned but up to date model, then the e-waste merchants would suddenly find their business cut by 75% within a couple of years. The buy, sell or trade pre-owned model as advocated by new trading portal trade 2 save needs to feature strongly in the minds of Americans if the problem of ewaste is to be tackled in the short to medium term.
The downside to this, of course, is that the profits of Sony, Apple, Samsung and Acer among others would suffer from fewer sales. But then, is this such a terrible thing? We love the things they give us, but at some point we have to conclude that it may be too much of a good thing.
Upgrading to stay ahead with technology is becoming more and more important. It’s about time that as Americans we started to do it responsibly – oh and guess what – you’ll say a fist full of dollars too!