Safe e-waste disposal will make you feel better about your rampant consumerism.
We don't like to think about it, but gadgets are one hell of a wasteful business. The smartphone industry is built on the idea that consumers will buy a new phone every two years. Laptops and desktop computers last a little longer. For true tech-addicts, the waste is even worse. A new desktop or laptop every year or two, new smartphones every year (thanks Sprint!) and a new TV each time the tech leaps forward.
All this leaves us with around 50 million tons of e-waste every year. And it isn't like computers and HDTVs just biodegrade. They are filled with nasty things like lead, mercury and brominated flame-retardants. This stuff gets stuffed into landfills and leeches into the water supply, which is why some of these chemicals are showing up in American mother's milk.
It's bad juujuu, and Texas Campaign for the Environment is one of many groups across the country working to stop the build-up of toxic trash. How? By making the manufacturers responsible for retiring their obsolete products. TCE has succeeded in pushing the Electronics TakeBack Law through in Texas, which forces manufacturers of devices with toxic components to offer free recycling.
Not everyone is on their side. Kevin Vilbig, a professional canvasser with the campaign, was arrested last month in Highland Park, Dallas. The Park is one of the wealthiest communities in the nation and they have stringent laws against solicitation. Mr. Vilbig and his lawyer are currently challenging the arrest at the local level.
I spent a solid chunk of my Tuesday afternoon sitting in court, taking copious notes about the judge's gown ("totally awesome") and the guard's uniform ("stained with gravy and also red soda") and listening to lawyers cite relevant court cases. Frank Chandler, Vilbig's lawyer, framed the matter as a first amendment issue. The prosecution claimed that the inclusion of any fund-raising activity turns TCE's campaigners into salesmen.
The next phase of Mr. Vilbig's trial isn't set to begin until November 9th, but Texas Campaign for the Environment continues to go door to door, raising awareness for their cause. This isn't a partisan issue. Mac and PC alike can agree that dumping toxic chemicals into the ground all willy-nilly is not the wisest idea. Early adopters- you folks, are what pushes mankind forward to new frontiers of technology. But we need to be conscious of the impact our hobby has upon the world.
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