Thursday, January 19, 2006

e-waste

Popular Science writes "The U.S. produces two million tons of e-waste every year." First, I'm surprised it's so little. Second, when did "e-waste" become a word?

From the February 2006 print edition of Popular Science"
Tough legislation scheduled to take effect in Europe this July could help dramatically curb the problem. The Restrictions of Hazardous Substances Directive, or RoHS, as the mandate is known, will force companies to eliminate nearly all of the hazardous substances -- including lead, mercury, cadmium and two forms of flame retardant - found in new electronics manufactured
or sold in the European Union. The directive is also expected to have serious implications for the rest of the world, since most manufacturers and suppliers will make their entire product lines RoHS compliant, instead of producing a "clean" version for Europe and "dirty" version for everyone else.
Once again, Europe leads the way.

Oh, my. A Google search on "e-waste" returns "about 527,000" hits. Once again, where have I been? For example, there's eWaste from Switzerland. From Just Say No to E-waste, a thought about why there's "only" two million tons of it per year:
"It has been estimated that over three-quarters of all computers ever bought in the USA are currently stored in people's attics, basements, office closets and pantries. If everyone disposed of these the US would face a huge waste problem all at once."
Thanks to Belinda, I'm happy to say I have no e-waste in my attic, basement, closet or pantry. I wish I had a pantry.

Contrary to the Popular Science article, Wired News reports that:
"The United States generates more e-waste than any other nation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. More than 4.6 million tons of it entered U.S. landfills in 2000, and that amount is projected to grow fourfold in the next few years.... some U.S. companies have a double standard when it comes to recycling. While some companies have implemented recycling policies in the European Union and Japan, where such programs are mandated, they've yet to do so in the United States. "

Let me say this about e-waste and every other kind of waste. We've got to stop producing, acquiring and disposing of so much stuff. Don't laugh. We've just got to stop it. That's all there is to it.

One of the reasons I could afford to retire in my fifties is that I embarked on a very frugal lifestyle long ago. I remember, years ago, walking through the cookie aisle of the grocery store (Come on, can you even believe there is a whole cookie aisle?) I was probably hungry and I was thinking "Yum." Then thinking, "Oh, well. If I really want cookies, I can bake them." Maybe to a tiny degree it's my Protestant work ethic reminding me that in order to deserve cookies I should bake them. But I started thinking that way about lots of things. "I could make that." Nine times out of ten, I don't actually make whatever it is. But I figure that means I didn't need it that much.

You know, if we each had to produce (or hunt) the meat we eat, almost none of us would eat as much of it as we do now. It's just too hard. If we had to spin or weave, we'd be a lot more careful with our clothes. I understand that specialization and mass production are good ideas. But somewhere in the middle there... some recognition of the costs of production could guide our choices.

1 comment:

Andy Hill said...

Thanks for you insight. I am doing a little research on my own for the ewaste problem. Reuse is practically discouraged in the US from a retail perspective-but what if it was encouraged? Current law: For every new LCD display sold in California they collect $8 to dispose of the item. Proposal: What if they paid you $8 every time you were able to reuse or recycle an item?