Friday, April 16, 2010

A better place for e-waste

Ever since I worked on a cell phone recycling campaign a while back (this was before I even had a cell phone!) I've always been conscious of where my electronic waste goes. I've passed on working cell phone to others when I was ready for an upgrade, and taken old computers to e-waste recycling centers (and footed the bill for it too). I even let an old TV sit in the basement forever, rather than putting it on the curb, until I finally got off my lazy butt to recycle it.

But even then I had no idea of the toll that e-waste is taking on the developing world, particularly "digital dumping grounds" in China and Africa. Think about it: nowadays people start thinking their computer is "old" after just two years, and cell phone companies urge you to upgrade to the newest gadget after only six months. A huge amount of effort from the plastics, metals and chemical industry goes into each of those disposable electronics. And the waste builds up year after year.

My work recently brought me into a project with the Basel Action Network, which is a lead watchdog organization, and lead compelling investigations with 60 Minutes and Frontline, uncovering these horrific digital dumps. They've started a program called e-Stewards, which gives consumers an easy way to choose responsible recyclers over unscrupulous dumpers. And, as an added bonus, high tech e-waste recycling facilities in the U.S. means more green collar jobs.

So this Earth Day, if you're looking to get rid of some of your e-waste, take a look at this map to see if there's an e-Stewards recycler near you, and go to them! If you don't have an e-Stewards recycler near you, ask them to become one. Don't you think your trusty old computer or cell phone deserves to go to a better place?

Here's some coverage of the recently-launched program:

USA Today
New York Times

e-Stewardship from Basel Action Network on Vimeo.