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Have you ever wondered what happens to your computer or cell phone when you’re done with it? According to the NRDC, the U.S. trashes 130,000 computers every day and 100 million cell phones annually. The EPA cites that only 18% of the 2.25 million tons of TVs, cell phones and computer products at the end of their life are properly recycled; the rest are thrown away. It is the fastest growing portion of the municipal waste stream worldwide. So what happens to all that e-waste? Sure, some of it is carelessly tossed in the dumpster where it winds up in nearby landfills; but another portion is responsibly recycled by you and me locally…or is it?
Last year, 60 Minutes aired one of the most shocking stories regarding the truth behind e-waste and e-recycling, titled The Electronic Wasteland (watch it now). Their investigation of U.S. recyclers revealed a startling reality. The American way of “newer is better” has resulted in an underground operation involving the overseas dumping of tons of toxic electronics by American recyclers, which are received by gang-managed outfits and result in lethal environments for its $8 per day workforce; a wage considered rather good for that part of China. In other words, while you and I have long since moved on to the latest and greatest technological advancement, our international neighbors are swimming in toxic air to bring home the equivalent of what most Americans earn in one hour. (Read more below photo)
Electronics contain materials such as lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium and poly vinyl chlorides; all of which have devastating toxicological effects including brain damage, kidney disease, mutations and cancer. (Source: NRDC) When these machines are broken apart for their most prized elements and then left to perish in open landfills, they begin to create clouds of toxic smog and pollute the atmosphere around them. The air becomes un-breathable and the water undrinkable. This is the case in Hong Kong, where illegal smuggling routes carry tons of e-waste through the ethical guise of trusted American recyclers.
This new awareness of the true impact of our technological obsession has led the Basal Action Network and a coalition of North American electronic recyclers to develop the e-Stewards program; an independent auditing system that will certify responsible recyclers. Click here to find your nearest recycler that has pledged to recycle according to the e-Stewards guidelines. Sony was the first to sign on with the Basal Action Network and has developed one of the most convenient systems for recycling electronics in the U.S. Locate a drop box to recycle medium-sized electronics of any brand here. Find a drop-off location for Sony-only products of any size here.
Remember, proper e-recycling not only protects our atmosphere from toxic release, it also ensures that previously mined metals remain safely in circulation…which results in less destructive mining. Read more about the devastating effects of metals mining here and take the first step toward responsible recycling. Recycle your cell phone with Green Diva today and receive an instant Diva reward.
About the Author
Katherine DalPra is principal and lead designer for Green Diva Jewelry, an eco-friendly jeweler using exclusively recycled metals, sustainable elements and Fair Trade gems. Recycle your cell phone with Green Diva today and receive an instant Diva reward.