by Lynn Jackson
I have a cardboard box inside my coat closet dedicated to electronic scrap I no longer use – a Discman, my old Razr phone, the charger for one thing and an adapter for something else. In addition to representing mass consumerism and my own techno-deficiencies, this cardboard box is symbolic of an escalating environmental concern. Imagine millions of these boxes dumped onto our earth’s trash reserves every day on top of an already alarming amount of our day-to-day waste.
With the enormous influx of new electronics (computers, phones, tablets, gaming consoles, mp3 devices, etc) and the endless tangle of wires that accompany those new electronics, it is time for our society to consider how to reduce, reuse, and recycle our old electronic waste.
Let’s take a look at how some major electronic corporations are addressing this issue for a better idea of how we can take a stand.
Radio Shack understands that by releasing cutting-edge technology on a regular basis, it is also promoting the replacement of old technology. Yes, Radio Shack wants you to update your old devices to new ones, but it does not want you to trash those old ones irresponsibly. Through Radio Shack’s Electronic Trade-In Program, you can “Trade-In” your old electronic devices (either in-store or online) for a Radio Shack gift card. Radio Shack ensures that all traded-in merchandise will be recycled.
Although there are currently over 4000 stores available for collecting used electronics, Radio Shack requires the electronics to be appraised and in good working condition for eligibility. In this sense, the Electronic Trade-In Program seems more money-conscious than environment-conscious; electronic scrap can be recycled, working or not, but it only has a market value in good condition.
So, what exactly does Radio Shack mean by recycling?
Apple’s Environmental Footprint initiative is a publicly accessible analysis of how Apple’s products, offices, transportation methods, and factories impact the environment. Apple hopes to improve its current numbers by reducing packaging, making their devices more energy efficient, and increasing product recyclability (through a trade-in program similar to Radio Shack’s).
Despite their publicized environmental efforts, a recent news story gave new meaning to the “footprints” Apple is leaving behind. According to the 2011 report, The Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bejing discovered polluted water and hazardous gas in the areas surrounding Apple suppliers in China. The Chinese environmental group accused 27 Apple suppliers of improperly discharging their polluted wastes and toxic metals.
Are Apple’s environmental efforts only for show?
Microsoft not only has a page devoted to its environmental initiatives, but it also has a page dedicated to what you can do to reduce your environmental impact, including buying energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly computers, refurbishing and recycling your electronics waste, conserving electricity, supporting environmental initiatives, driving low-carbon IT initiatives, learning about sustainable energy, saving water, and leveraging free software to reduce your environmental impact.
Although Microsoft’s initiatives extend beyond electronic scrap, the software corporation did not make the top 10 cut in Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics report. Greenpeace penalized Microsoft for its use of the environmentally-hazardous materials, brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chlorides (PVCs).
So for my final question, I must ask: What can you really do?
After an in-depth analysis of these three corporations’ environmental records, it might seem that if these powerful corporations can’t even making whole-hearted environmental efforts, then there isn’t anything you, as an individual, can do about electronic waste.
Don’t be disheartened! There’s plenty you can do to reduce electronic waste without supporting these negligent corporations. You can even make money doing it! Try making cash for electronic scrap through small online dealers who will accept your electronic scrap in any condition. These dealers usually also trade cash for gold, silver, and your other precious metals, so be sure to check them out whether you’re looking to make a difference or just a quick buck!
Lynn Jackson is a graduate of University of Southern California’s Master of Professional Writing Program. She regularly guest blogs on a variety of topics.
Photo: electronic scrap courtesy shutterstock
09/02/technology/apple- suppliers-causing- environmental-problems- chinese-group-says.html
greenpeace-criticizes- microsofts-environmental- efforts/