Friday, November 14, 2008

not-so-doomed fate of dated electronics

A recent article in Newsweek, titled "Don't Toss Out That Old Gadget", had some cool info on the state of consumption/waste regarding small-electronics recycling.
  • Old electronics can't be tossed out with watermelon rinds because they contain toxic elements, and most of them needn't be tossed anyway because they aren't waste.
  • Batteries will leak nickel and cadmium--carcinogens for humans--if left to fester in a landfill...computers, TVs and cell phones add further doses of mercury, beryllium, lead and arsenic, among other toxins.
  • Nevertheless, the United States sends between 300 million and 400 million electronics to the dump every year.
  • What if the waste problem could be solved with a design innovation? Advocates propose a cradle-to-cradle model for manufacturing. This means that with the right design, a manufactured good can be broken down into a number of universal, toxin-free components, which can back in to the production cycle in a closed loop. For example, a cradle-to-cradle computer might consist of just one or two types of plastics, easily taken apart and put back into streams of production. Nothing's thrown out because nothing's waste.
  • Even without the dramatic redesign called for, up to 80 percent of a cell phone is already recyclable.
  • What's really wonderful is that more and more the waste question is being addressed by the manufacturers themselves. Nokia and Dell lead the way. Dell picks up the shipping and recycling fees for its own products. (See HERE!)
  • One cradle-to-cradle certification was given to the United States Postal Service for offering special envelopes that let you send old Palm Pilots, BlackBerrys, digital cameras and the like free of charge to the Clover Technologies Group, an electronics-recycling company that has a "zero waste to landfill" policy.

Did you know – the BBC recently reported the following:

  1. teenagers get new a cell phone every 11 mos.
  2. adults get a new cell phone every 18 mos.
  3. average life of computer has fallen from 4-6 years in 1997 to 2 years in 2005
HOW UTAHNS CAN RECYCLE ELECTRONICS, From the Recycling Coalition of Utah:

Recently, the state of Utah has contracted with a reputable e-waste recycler GRX, to manage e-waste under state contract. Feel free to contact GRX at 1-866-GRX-4920 (1-866-479-4920 to arrange a pickup or get more information. This service is open to the private sector as well.

If you have suggestions or information on what others are doing to strengthen e-waste recycling in Utah, we want to hear about it. Please e-mail us at

Other businesses that can help with Electronic Recycling:

Executive Recycling


Stone Castle Recycling


Christopher Clifford said...

Have you read "Cradle to Cradle" by William McDonough? It talks about this kind of manufacturing for everything from electronics, to cars, to houses. A good read.

erin said...

thank you, christopher.