Computers, TV's, cellular phones and other regularly used electronics become outdated within months. It's kind of strange when you think about that old rotary phone that clung to your Grandmother's kitchen wall for decades, or that hippopotamus-sized television that is still in her living room. Why is new technology so much flimsier than old technology? It's nothing short of frustrating. Even more maddening is all the waste created when we're forced to routinely replace them.
If tech-minded geniuses can repurpose an old PC monitor, toaster parts, and record players into robots and gadgets, then why can't those machines continue being used for years? In Annie Leonard's hugely successful viral video, The Story of Stuff, she discusses "planned obsolescence." It means the computer screen you're reading this on is designed to live a short life so that you'll be forced to buy another a lot sooner than is actually necessary.
Electronic waste—or eWaste—is not only a hazard on your wallet as you're forced to constantly replace items (I'm on toaster # 3 in less than a year), but it's also quite toxic. Mercury, cadmium, lead, and carcinogenic substances like polychlorinated biphenyls are all found in landfills, and according to Scientific American, nearly 70 percent of all heavy metals in landfills can be attributed to eWaste, even though electronics make up only 2 percent of landfill mass.
What you can do:
Stop Early Adopting: Do you really need the super-new-newest iPad? According to the U.S. Geological Survey more than 1 billion cell phones were sold worldwide in 2009, with over 130 million "retired" annually in the U.S. And less than 1 percent of those are recycled! Use what you have until it's no longer useful. That might mean making strategic purchases instead of impulse buys. Research your electronics and pick something you can live with for a while.
Donate: If you simply must upgrade to a flat-screen TV, remember there are plenty of people out there who would love your old one.
Recycle Properly: If you think tossing your cell phone into the recycling bin is going to ensure it ends up being recycled, guess again. There are all sorts of eWaste recycling centers in most cities, just check to make sure they're legit. Check your local government's Web site as they usually list accredited eWaste recyclers. Electronic retailers may also have recycling programs for all kinds of items including appliances.
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