Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Those Discarded Cellphones and Other Devices

Environment, Science, & Technology

It is amazing how frequently new models of TVs, cellphones, computers, and other electronic devices appear on the market. As soon as a new model of a device is released, the buzz about a better model starts to make the rounds. And what is more is that there is usually a frenzied rush by consumers to get the new model. Of course that which is touted as better and faster and more efficient might not necessarily have been on account of any major change to the particular product in the first place, but a mere tweak that hardly warrants the big bucks dished out to get it. So, as the companies that make these devices seek to maximize their profits through this every-nine-months upgrade of their products, and as we fall prey to their advertising schemes and our own insatiable desire to be in possession of the latest or most recent innovations (even though we don't really need them), an inordinate amount of waste is generated - called e-waste, the fastest growing municipal waste stream in the world.

Now do not be fooled, most of this e-waste is not recycled, a good 85% of it. They end of in landfills and incinerators and in the end contribute about 70% of all toxic waste. Recycling is not going to solve the problem; it barely scratches the surface. The way to solve the problem is to reduce demand. Demand can be reduced if companies build more durable products. We can also help by putting in check our unbridled desire to acquire goods even when we do not need them. In the long run we will also reduce the strain on the earth's resources. But all that is easier said than done, for we are up against serious odds. In the meanwhile, the trend will continue, with more and more models of devices being turned out faster that we can learn to effectively use them  or get used to them, with our lining up to get the newer models, and with our throwing out the still fully functioning ones we bought last year.

[Photographic Art by Ric Couchman]