The inspiration for this diary came from Crane-station’s post on What not to take to the scrap yard.
When I was young – around 14 or so – after my father passed away, my mother moved my brothers and sisters and I down to Naples Fl. to live. The ends of the earth as far as I was concerned. We had little from my father’s estate and my mother decided to open a kindergarten rather than being a nurse in some hospital – where the pay was low and the hours horrible.
My main interest at that time was radio and electronics but had very little in the way of money to acquire parts etc. So I became very good a scrounging for radio parts from the back of TV service shops. There were three main ones in town at that time and a couple of smaller ones. So I would get on my bicycle and head downtown and make the rounds, putting what ever I found on my bike and tying it down with some rope and then make my way home. Where I would use a drill and what ever other tools I had to remove those parts that I though useful. Tubes and tube sockets, capacitors and resisters. Transformers and coils and what not.
I became rather good at it and still use these skills today. Not because of money issues but because a lot of the parts are no longer available and are still useful for some of my projects. I built audio amplifiers and power supplies and even a short wave converter to use ahead of an auto radio to listen to shortwave broadcasts. It worked very well and as it turned out this approach was considered much better than the typical one used in most commercial units.
This was the 1960s though when reusing and re-purposing technology was practical and useful. Our current technology is much less so. The small parts in our cell phones and laptops and ipods etc. are not as easy to reuse. Removing them can destroy them unless one has the proper equipment to do so. Most of the chips are only useful for the device they are in. Proprietary with little or no documentation on how one would use them. Or flash programmed with proprietary code.
Sow what happens when we replace them do to failure or just want something new and better and more shiny ? We pitch them out. In to the dumpster or have them hauled of to somewhere. Out of site and out of mind.
E-waste is expected to grow with the profusion of DVDs, pagers and cell phones with shorter life-spans that are yet to hit store shelves.
“As technology increases and the demand for technology increases, more and more products will be entering the waste-stream,” Wood said. “As we use more circuit boards and introduce things like flat-panel TVs, we are putting whole new types of toxins into the environment, for which toxicological data are not yet available.”
“We’re not just talking about electronics,” Bender agreed. “We’re talking about any materials that manufacturers produce with large amounts of plastics, metals or hazardous constituents.”
Earlier this year, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition and the Basel Action Network issued a report revealing just how big the e-waste problem is.
According to the report, “Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia,” between 50 and 80 percent of e-waste collected for recycling is shipped overseas.
“It’s cheaper to put (electronic junk) on a container ship to China than it is to find a company in the United States that will recycle it responsibly,” Wood said.
In South China, residents with no safety equipment recover metal parts from electronic waste by smashing monitors to get CRT tubes, exposing themselves to toxic poisons.
According to the report, the United States is the only developed country in the world that has failed to ratify the Basel Convention, a United Nations environmental treaty which has adopted a global ban on hazardous waste exports from the most developed countries to the developing world.
Activists say that the United States should follow Europe’s lead and pass a directive on e-waste. Manufacturers should pay the cost of collecting and recycling electronic goods, they argue.
But as this article also points out a lot of this is changing but for the individual, this is not easy as one has to find a center that will take our tech-trash. And as Crane-station has ponted out in her posts, a lot of it still winds up in the dumpster.
The problem is that our capitalistic system does not allow for junk. And not just our personal junk, but when houses and buildings and factories become junk, they are simply left to rot and decay and rust away. Capitalism does not account for that which cannot turn a profit. Ney…it discourages activities that cost people and business and governments time and money and resources. It encourages waste and inefficiency. And any system like that will itself be discarded.