What Can We Do about Technotrash?

Many environmentalists argue that the most effective way to deal with the technotrash problem is for manufacturers to take responsibility for overhauling the way they produce electronics. The best solutions probably start with manufacturers, who can make an effort to use fewer natural resources during production and to avoid employing hazardous materials that create disposal hazards. Nonetheless, consumers can still take important steps to address the technotrash crisis. For instance, according to the EPA, recycling allows over 100 million pounds of materials to be reused annually.

  • Be an informed buyer. Look for products that use recycled materials and can be updated rather than trashed when a new model comes along. Buying energy efficient electronics, especially those with an Energy Star certification, can also help reduce your environmental impact. Keep in mind that, in general, LCD screens use much less energy than cathode ray tube screens.
  • Be a cautious buyer. Consider all the needless waste that comes from discarding old models that still work perfectly well. Don’t get caught up in the rat race for the newest and fastest products.
  • Do some end of life planning—for your devices. Your best bet is to buy products from companies with an ironclad take-back promise. That means the company will responsibly dispose of its products when you send them back. Do your research to make sure your device won’t end up in a place like Giuyu, a rural town in China that has become a technotrash dump site.
  • Don’t just toss out technotrash as if it were any other rubbish. That’s how it ends up in landfills, slowly leaching pollution into the surrounding area.
  • Find responsible ways to donate or recycle your used electronics. (Don’t forget to scrub the hard drive first to remove your personal information!) The EPA maintains a list of organizations seeking donations or offering recycling services.

--Liz Soltan