truth about ewaste

THE TRUTH ABOUT
E-WASTE ‘RECYCLING’

Daryl Elliott • 05.15.21 • MtVernonComputers.com blog

Recycling an old computer or phone can seem like the responsible thing to do. However, according to an independent study by Basel Action Network, it was determined that of recycled e-waste, 29% ends up in landfills, over 40% exported, and the rest either incinerated or put in storage. The value of the raw materials is worth less the cost to realistically recycle,; even small traces of gold and platinum is not worth extracting.

The vast majority of e-waste ends up in developing countries where it is disassembled and scrapped for every bit of value.; people are exposed daily to mercury, carcinogens, and neurotoxins from old electronic devices. Sadly, protective gear is not implemented, and a lack of education causes workers to be completely unaware they’re in direct contact with dangerous toxins. These harmful chemicals cause mutations, increased lead levels in blood, spontaneous abortions, and neurobehavioral disturbances.

Groundwater and air quality suffer as well; and there’s the security threat – international, informal recycling is generally unregulated and unlicensed – so passwords, credit cards, and other sensitive information, may be exploited if digital media is not properly wiped or destroyed before disposal.

ewaste by river

Ashes piled by a river in Guiyu, China in May 2008 Photo courtesy of Basel Action Network

As of 2021, there is no federal law in the U.S. that mandates the recycling of e-waste or forbids e-waste from being exported to developing countries.

A Failed Attempt

In 2004, Dell and Goodwill teamed up to supposedly help solve this problem. They began accepting any and all computer models – supposedly safely recycling e-waste at their own facilities. Through investigation into the legitimacy of these claims, it was discovered that e-waste donated through Dell’s recycling program, was being shipped to numerous Southeast Asian countries. On average, tracked devices that are “recycled” in the US traveled 2,500 miles. Staples and Best Buy also offer e-waste recycling – the majority of which ends up in a land fill or exported to Hong Kong, China, or developing nations in Africa, for this human-rights-violating “processing.”

What Can Be Done?

One solution to this ever-growing-e-waste problem is to keep your electronics running efficiently for as long as possible – and only replace entire devices when absolutely necessary. Most laptops and desktops built in the past 10 years can continue being used efficiently for the majority of tasks. Help lower the yearly average of 64-pounds-per-person e-waste production by following these general tips to keep your computer optimized for as long as possible.

• Regular OS updates / malware scans & backups (1 week)
• Remove dust / pet hair from fans (1 year)
• Remain < 90% storage C: Drive (Always)
• Re-apply CPU thermal paste (2-4 years)
• Replace traditional boot hard drives w/SSDs (ASAP)
 
Additionally, we have been in contact with someone who is starting a non-profit geared toward re-issuing, and donating old laptops and desktops to schools, shelters, and other places that could use them.  We hope to help in their mission to actually recycle and re-use unwanted computers. We will post additional information as it becomes available. 

truth about ewaste

THE TRUTH ABOUT
E-WASTE ‘RECYCLING’

Daryl Elliott • 05.15.21 • MtVernonComputers.com blog

Recycling an old computer or phone can seem like the responsible thing to do. However, according to an independent study by Basel Action Network, it was determined that of recycled e-waste, 29% ends up in landfills, over 40% exported, and the rest either incinerated or put in storage. The value of the raw materials is worth less the cost to realistically recycle,; even small traces of gold and platinum is not worth extracting.

The vast majority of e-waste ends up in developing countries where it is disassembled and scrapped for every bit of value.; people are exposed daily to mercury, carcinogens, and neurotoxins from old electronic devices. Sadly, protective gear is not implemented, and a lack of education causes workers to be completely unaware they’re in direct contact with dangerous toxins. These harmful chemicals cause mutations, increased lead levels in blood, spontaneous abortions, and neurobehavioral disturbances.

Groundwater and air quality suffer as well; and there’s the security threat – international, informal recycling is generally unregulated and unlicensed – so passwords, credit cards, and other sensitive information, may be exploited if digital media is not properly wiped or destroyed before disposal.

ewaste by river

Ashes piled by a river in Guiyu, China in May 2008 Photo courtesy of Basel Action Network

As of 2021, there is no federal law in the U.S. that mandates the recycling of e-waste or forbids e-waste from being exported to developing countries.

A Failed Attempt

In 2004, Dell and Goodwill teamed up to supposedly help solve this problem. They began accepting any and all computer models – supposedly safely recycling e-waste at their own facilities. Through investigation into the legitimacy of these claims, it was discovered that e-waste donated through Dell’s recycling program, was being shipped to numerous Southeast Asian countries. On average, tracked devices that are “recycled” in the US traveled 2,500 miles. Staples and Best Buy also offer e-waste recycling – the majority of which ends up in a land fill or exported to Hong Kong, China, or developing nations in Africa, for this human-rights-violating “processing.”

What Can Be Done?

One solution to this ever-growing-e-waste problem is to keep your electronics running efficiently for as long as possible – and only replace entire devices when absolutely necessary. Most laptops and desktops built in the past 10 years can continue being used efficiently for the majority of tasks. Help lower the yearly average of 64-pounds-per-person e-waste production by following these general tips to keep your computer optimized for as long as possible.

• Regular OS updates / malware scans & backups (1 week)
• Remove dust / pet hair from fans (1 year)
• Remain < 90% storage C: Drive (Always)
• Re-apply CPU thermal paste (2-4 years)
• Replace traditional boot hard drives w/SSDs (ASAP)
 
Additionally, we have been in contact with someone who is starting a non-profit geared toward re-issuing, and donating old laptops and desktops to schools, shelters, and other places that could use them.  We hope to help in their mission to actually recycle and re-use unwanted computers. We will post additional information as it becomes available.