Thursday, August 8, 2013

Collecting E-Waste: Awesome... or is it?

I came across this article... and basically read it only because, unfortunately, I already knew this. I know where old cellphones go to die. I know where most e-waste goes to die. But after seeing an e-waste collection at the last Earth Day in a nearby small town, I had to wonder how many people bother to think about it.

Yay! Someone's taking my junk!
Everyone rejoices when they hear about an e-waste "recycle" day. See, because here in PA, they earlier this year passed a law saying you could no longer throw TVs etc. into the trash. From all I see and hear, this is just one big inconvenience to most. Because we don't stop to think about what happens to things we throw away. We just throw them away and stop thinking about the immediately. Oh, it's all well and good when we buy things and they are new and wonderful, but when their usefulness has come to an end, these wonderful things are now just a nuisance. I call it the Christmas Tree Syndrome. As the holidays approach, we go out to a live tree lot with great joy and enthusiasm to pick out that perfect spruce. Everyone's happy. The kids are happy. We happily and lovingly tie them to the roofs of our cars and happily take them home, where we happily take them inside and happily decorate them. Mirth all around. Oh, how we love them so. Then, shortly after the holiday, what do we see? Sad, dried-out, dejected, discarded trees at the curb. Bits of sad tinsel still clinging to some limbs. Needles continuing to fall out all around. Because, the usefulness is over. We don't care anymore. Something that brought us joy no longer has a purpose. Now, it's someone else's problem. And, oh, man, they had BETTER come and get that tree. It's my right as an Uh-meer-i-cuhn to get that tree picked up darn-tootin' I pay my taxes.

And now... damn it's just so damned inconvenient to have to actually THINK about where that discarded no-longer-amusing just-too-big TV has to go. We were happy enough when we bought it, but now it's just a damn nuisance. Phones? Who cares. I want a new one. I lost it, I broke it, I dropped it in the toilet. All which just really means it's still trashing the planet somewhere out there. I don't care. I don't see it anymore.

So, yeah, when we went to the "free e-waste recycling" at a local Earth Day event, I was pretty horrified at the amount of SHIT people were unloading. With no more thought than, "Damn, stupid I had to drive this all the way down here, WTH." Do we care where it's going? Do we know? Do we give it a second thought? How about a first thought? Do we think about WHY these things shouldn't be in a landfill? Most of us don't actually live near landfills, so we don't think about those either. I've become friends with the local municipal waste expert. He's a really cool guy. Oh, the questions I hear him get. And, bless his heart, he answers so patiently. I stand in awe.

By and large, unfortunately, I see time and again that people don't really care WHERE it goes, so long as it goes somewhere. Makes me think of the Motley Crue song, "Hey, don't go away mad, just go away." So these collection days become more a scene in people being inconvenienced, rather than people doing the right thing. Would it matter if they SAW where these things go, and the horrible conditions surrounding what happens to these things? If they could smell the toxic soup that other humans breathe after we throw things out? If they realized what would be leaching into the Earth if we just continued to pile them into landfills?

Well, you already know my answer.

I got nuthin'. This is just a rant. I know what the solution is: stop buying so much. But that won't happen. Yeah, I must know where my phone is at all times, but I stick with a cell phone and replace it only while kicking and screaming that I don't want a new one! Ugh, I have to learn a whole new gadget. Hell, yeah, it's awesome, but seriously, I will keep a phone as many years as I can. Same with computers. TV? Ours is big and heavy but it still works and it throws off some heat and OH those new thin ones sure are sharp... but no. Ours still works. iPads? iPhones?? Replacing them every time a new one comes out, just cuz it has to be the newest, not because the *old* one broke? THAT'S some serious denial about what's happening out there in, oh, you know, REALITY.

But, geez o' man, those e-waste collections are SO inconvenient. Can't I just throw it away? And who cares?

For your perusing pleasure...

Electronics Dump

Most Americans throw away rather than recycle outdated devices. Below, the percentage of electronics, by weight, that wound up in landfills or incinerators in 2006-10.