Not so high-tech

Trash. Garbage. Waste. Refuse.

Whatever you want to call it, we humans produce a lot of it.

Ok, that’s not news at all.  Candy wrappers, paper cups, dirty napkins… We all throw these into the trash every day.

But I’m not here to talk about regular old  trash. I’m here to talk about E-waste.

Every year, companies come out with new electronics – new cellphones, new computers, new TVs… So what happens to our old gadgets after we replace them with new ones?

Well, a lot of it ends up with the rest of our trash – in landfills. But the electronic waste contains toxic heavy metals and other pollutants that can harm the environment.

So what about those great E-waste recycling programs we’re hearing about? Unfortunately, some of these programs aren’t as great as they seem. 

In fact, a large portion of E-waste ends up in gigantic “digital dumping grounds” located in developing countries such as Ghana, China, and India.  

Many recyclers, instead of taking the time and money to make sure the electronic waste is disposed of safely and responsibly, simply ship the waste to these countries.

In Ghana for example, exporters of e-waste took advantage of the people’s desire to advance technologically by calling the tons of old computers they were bringing into the country “donations.” Half of these “donations” did not even work.

This has caused a whole slew of problems. Criminals scour discarded  hard drives for personal information to use in scams. Men, women, and even children, breathe in hazardous and toxic fumes while burning computer parts  to salvage precious metals to make a living.

How do you make sure your old electronics won’t end up in some Third World country? Below are two useful websites.

e-Stewards recyclers must meet high standards of environmental and social responsibility.

Visit to find responsible e-recyclers near you.

The International Association of Electronics Recyclers is also a good resource. Visit

If you would like more in-depth information about electronic waste, you can check out the Frontline video at


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Tyler Bradt said,

    E-waste is a nightmare, and one that is hardly known about at that. Planned obsolescence is put into play by pretty much every high-tech company out there whether it be physical or psychological. Why does everyone need the brand new iPod when their old one works perfectly fine? Or maybe their old cell phone only lasted for 6 months so they were forced to get a new one. Companies do this purposefully to get more money out of us all, and it works. I wrote a pretty detailed post about e-watse based partly on that PBS link you’ve got listed up there

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