June 28, 2006
High Tech Trash: An Interview with Elizabeth Grossman
By Sarah Rich
In the grand scheme of things, the waste that weekly fills our curbside trash and recycling bins is mostly of a household variety: food containers, junk mail, used bathroom and cleaning supplies. We don’t throw out things like cell phones, computer parts and appliances very often, but when we do, this electronic waste ("e-waste") wreaks widespread havoc as it travels through a clumsy, poorly distributed global disassembly and decomposition process.
We've talked quite a bit at WC about emerging standards and legislation for better e-waste recycling, about corporate responsibility for taking back used products, about evolving design to make efficiency, upgrading, disassembly and remanufacturing simple. All of these efforts at progress are gaining acceptance and importance. But our planet is still being littered with the detritus of rapid technological progress -- one of those semi- (or mostly) hidden systems that persists largely because of its invisibility.
Environmental journalist Elizabeth Grossman got a glimpse behind this curtain while researching point source pollution in the Willamette River in 2000. What she discovered was that over half that pollution came from high-tech industries -- chip manufacturers, silicone wafer manufacturers, and companies that make metals products for high tech were responsible for millions of gallons of solvents, nitrates and metals flowing down the river. Read More
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