Earth Day and Technology

April 22nd has been designated as Earth Day.  But taking care of our Earth doesn’t have to happen on only one specific date in a year.  This is our planet and Earth Day should be every day!  We must care for mother nature so that our future generations can grow and expand to a galaxy far far away. . .

Technology has grown to the point where consumer products actually require more resources to create than ever before.  But our planet has a limited supply of those resources.  And most of those rare earth minerals are situated in China.

When we were kids, we all learned the importance of recycling.  Recycling cans, bottles, and paper so that we can reuse them in other products like pens, toilet paper, etc.  But what about electronics that we don’t use any more? 

In the last 15 years, there has been a surge in recycling for electronics.  In the beginning, most consumers just dumped their used electronics in the trash which in turn was dumped in our country’s landfill.  The problem with that is those electronic components contain toxic parts which will decompose and get introduced back in to the environment.  These toxic components harm our environment and eventually the government thought of a “solution to our problem”.

The government “solved the problem” by shipping the toxic electronic components to China.  China has been booming in the last 10 years.  They are going through their industrial phase and expanding factories everywhere.  These factories need resources which we were providing as electronic components.  China then sends out its recycling workforce to disassemble and strip these electronic components to get at the plastic, metals, etc.  The problem with China’s way of recycling is that it also harms the environment and also its own people in the process.  So this in turn isn’t really a way to “solve the problem”.  Harming the environment in another country is still in fact harming the environment.  Also during this time, most places don’t offer free recycling.  Consumers actually have to pay to have their electronics recycled.  Not many consumers do that since why would you want to pay to throw something out?  So at the end most consumers just throw it out with the trash.  Problem not solved.

Now the last 5 years, many corporations are offering free recycling at their stores.  You might have noticed them at places like Best Buy where they have a few bins for you to recycle cell phones, empty ink cartridges, etc.  And some other places like Staples are offering incentives when you bring back empty ink cartridges.  So what really happens with those products being recycled?  I don’t have any concrete facts about Best Buy but I can provide some insight to what happens to those empty ink cartridges at Staples.

To a consumer, you might think that Staples ships those empty ink cartridges back to their respective manufacture to be reused or recycled.  That would be the logical thinking.  But the truth is that Staples just dumps those cartridges in their dumpsters at the end of the day.  Don’t believe me?  Take a peek inside their dumpster and you’ll see boxes of used cartridges just laying in there.  This is also verified by a Staples employee who was actually dumping those cartridges out.  Staples just uses the illusion of “recycling” and incentives to lure you in to purchasing new ink cartridges from them instead of their competitors.  Dumping these empty ink cartridges in the dumpster isn’t considered recycling and in fact will harm the environment.  Also it’s bad for corporate image.

So at this point in time, we can’t trust the government or big corporations to do it right.  In my opinion, the best recycling program is not to recycle but to reuse instead.  If you have an old computer that’s just too slow for you then don’t throw it out.  Give it to someone less fortunate than you, donate it to a church, give it to Goodwill or even just sell it on ebay for someone else to use.  Used electronics can be handed down to the next generation or given away.  You can also refill those empty ink cartridges at ink refill stores.  Even you can sell those empty cartridges on ebay for people that actually refill them.

Reuse IS recycling!

Posted in: Articles, Miscellaneous

{ 11 comments… add one }

  • nicholas lai April 22, 2012, 10:38 pm

    Pretty interesting idea about recycling. However with tech gadgets, reusing is a bit hard.

  • EC April 22, 2012, 11:15 pm

    So am I to understand that Staples DOES NOT actually recycle ink cartridges? So why advertise that they do? This was very informative! Thank you.

  • Angelica Chen April 22, 2012, 11:23 pm

    Great article! I been having problem of having no time to resolve old electronics I usually give it to my mom or my relatives. Doing good will and good deeds to the earth is a wonderful thing. Not just only on earth day but every day!

  • YY April 23, 2012, 12:36 am

    Woa, I really thought Staples were recycling the used cartridges!!! Recycling makes you feel good because you think you are helping to reuse the products that you have no use, however, we have no idea if they are really going to be reused. Thanks for sharing ideas on providing reusing!!!

  • Angie Shum April 23, 2012, 2:53 am

    The concept of reusing is great but proper ways and perhaps regulations for recycling and disposal are still in need I think~ Sooner or later those reused old gadgets would be broken, what do you do with them then?

  • Sarah T April 23, 2012, 6:30 am

    interesting article. It’s true, why would staples advertise to bring our empty ink cartridges to them when they don’t recycle. Yes it’s a way for consumers to come to staples vs. Their competitors, but what really happens. Sometimes a discount is not worth it. Not realizing I’m reusing by giving my old electronics to family members is a good feeling now that it’s mentioned in this article. Thank you.

  • Ronald April 23, 2012, 7:04 am

    Old dumps in Germany are not considered interesting future mines.

    There’s so much old stuff in there which is now more valuable, that it’s just a matter of time that a mining company will start exploiting these dumps as mine for metals etc.

    Would be the ultimate recycling after all. :-)

  • Ronald April 23, 2012, 7:05 am

    sorry, the “not” in the first sentence in my earlier post should have been “now”.

  • Polina Quinones April 23, 2012, 8:50 am

    Good article. The City where I live is still don’t have recycling program to their residents and its 2012! Plus it’s definetly make sence instead of tossing away your old electronics to give it away to someone less fortunate.

  • Monika April 23, 2012, 11:17 am

    we all can switch off lights to do our bit of support for earth day

  • nicholas April 23, 2012, 6:20 pm

    pretty interesting idea about recycling, but it might be a bit hard realistically to reuse old tech gadgets.

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