Friday, 18 August 2006

ImageHigh Tech Trash is a timely and chilling wake-up call that something needs to be done about our outrageous levels of e-waste, and quickly. 

Elizabeth Grossman, a nature writer who has written for Audubon, Amicus and Orion, turns her watchful eye on the mounting problem of high-tech waste. With technologies being updated at a ridiculous rate, we all have a nagging suspicion that there must be an awful lot of it about, but just where does it all end up? Grossman considers the irony of how new technologies were introduced to clean up the stink of old industry only to recognize that yet more toxins were being introduced into the environment. Those shiny, streamlined notebooks and mobile phones sure look nice and clean on the outside, but on the inside they contain a cocktail of highly toxic material. Such "e-waste" contains lead, mercury, cadmium and plastics, to name but a few of the unhealthy ingredients. But it is not just the chemicals themselves that comprise a major health hazard; it is the sheer magnitude of high-tech toxic waste that is discarded each year. Grossman explains that Americans own more than 2 billion pieces of digital technology and throw out an incredible 5-7 million tons per year, which accounts for two-thirds of the heavy metals and 40 percent of the lead found in U.S. landfills. This mammoth amount of toxic high-tech trash also affects people in other parts of the world, where it is shipped to be recycled under less than ideal conditions. Workers in China inhale highly toxic fumes as they melt down components over open fires near enormous high-tech waste dumps. "This is a story in which we all play a part, whether we know it or not. If you sit at a desk in an office, talk to friends on your cell phone, watch television, listen to music on headphones, are a child in Guangdong, or a native of the Arctic, you are part of this story," writes Grossman. High Tech Trash is a timely and chilling wake-up call that something needs to be done about our outrageous levels of e-waste, and quickly.