How to Recycle

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Discarded electronics account for approximately 70 percent of heavy metals and 40 percent of the lead found in U.S. landfills according to a 2001 EPA report.
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Friday, 18 August 2006

ImageHigh Tech Trash: The Flip Side of the Digital Revolution

Disposal bins for the cartridges used in computer printers are becoming commonplace in office-supply stores, and some manufacturers pay the postage for shipping spent cartridges back for proper handling, but what about old computers themselves? How dangerous is the material that goes into them, and what happens to it when the whole caboodle gets thrown out? In High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health (Island Press, $25.95), journalist Elizabeth Grossman issues a warning against "e-waste": plastics, batteries, flame-retardant chemicals and more. She notes that the environmental harms of the Digital Age "are now being felt by communities from the Arctic to Australia, with poorer countries and communities receiving a disproportionate share of the burden." With its citizens using about a quarter of the world's computers, the United States should be a leader in figuring out how to minimize the harm they can do to ecosystems. But according to Grossman, as of the end of last year, the United States had "not even sketched out a national system for dealing with its high-tech trash." In an appendix, "How to Recycle a Computer, Cell Phone, TV, or Other Digital Device," she summarizes the resources now available to those with a cyber-conscience.

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