Tech Talk  

Don't throw away the gold

Computer and electronic related waste remains a local and global problem, despite our progress made to clean it up the last several years.

More computers and electronics are being recycled today, but some estimates suggest that 80 per cent of electronic waste scheduled for recycling in North America is shipped overseas to be taken apart by low-wage workers.

While many vendors and recycling organizations do a good job of recovering unwanted computing products and other electronics for proper disposal, there's still no nationally accepted method for dealing with such electronic waste.

The tech industry is realizing that recycling isn't just good for the environment. Because manufacturing costs can be reduced by using recycled materials and refurbished products can pull additional revenue out of tech that was destined for the scrap heap.

Public awareness has increased greatly, but there are plenty of people who still don't realize how to properly dispose of their old computers, smart phones, gaming devices and other electronics.

Did you know that only about 10 per cent of all discarded computers are recycled in North America, meaning millions of computers could be leaking harmful chemicals into the environment?

Of the 10 per cent that are recycled, not all are recycled in an environmentally friendly way. You see, it's far more cost-effective to send old computers and electronics over seas to be broken down into raw materials, often by poor workers who don't take the proper precautions to protect themselves or the environment.

Unfortunately, there are always going to be a few recycling companies that choose this option to maximize profits, so long as our governments legislation allows it to happen.

Computers and other electronics can contain lead, mercury, cadmium and beryllium, among other things, which have all been shown to have harmful effects on humans.

(If they enter the body, that is. You needn't worry about their presence in the computer while you're filling out an Excel spreadsheet.)

Computers, smart phones, tablets, game consoles and many other electronics are also made of plastics that give off toxic fumes if they are burned.

Decreasing production costs, and a rapidly changing internet combined with consumer demand for faster more powerful tech has only contributed to this problem, significantly shortening the length of time before older equipment is replaced and discarded.

Sadly, much of the tech, computers in particular, are often discarded much sooner than necessary. and have often not reached their full life expectancy.

Tech companies have done a good job of convincing us that we should always have the latest and greatest. And even if you're frugal and hold onto stuff for as long as possible, you may still be forced to upgrade sooner than necessary.

Apple is in the midst of a class action law suit that alleges they were aware of a recent software update to their iPhones that caused performance issues for older models, and required customers to replace them with newer models to resolve the issue.

Let's all do our part to improve this issue for future generations. If you have any unwanted computing products or other electronics, I recommend you take it to the Battery Doctor, as all of the recyclables are sent to the Cominco smelter in Trail and fully recycled from there.

Alternatively, before you take any old computers away to be recycled, I would also encourage you to call around to the various charities. Many of these organizations are under funded and can often use older computers for less demanding tasks, freeing up resources for other things.


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About the Author

Trevor Sharp is a computer-support specialist, and has been helping people with computing issues for more than 25 years.

Trevor lives in Kelowna with his wife and five kids, and owns and operates a mobile computer business providing on-site tech support for home and business customers.

Trevor is here to help your home or business with any computing issue,

Contact Info:

email: [email protected]

website: www.okanagancomputerservices.com

blog: www.okanagancomputerservices.com/blog

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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