Monday, May 10, 2010

E-Waste and Ethical Recycling

I have mentioned in a past posting about how our fast moving technology is leading to an unsustainable future. E-waste is any electronic waste such as TV’s, Computers, electronic gadgets that become a part of the waste system and is increasing due to our fast moving technology. The largest difference between regular trash and e-waste is the presence of many chemicals residing within. These valuable yet toxic metals present a large problem, mostly the contamination to the area around where the e-waste is dumped and eventually into the water sources. So like in my past post, I recommended recycling your e-waste to help the environment; this being an ethical and sustainable practice right?

I have recently gone to a volunteer session at Free Geek, a Canada and USA ethical salvaging centre, where I learned some very key ideas involving recycling. Contrary to popular belief, recycling centres are not always sustainable, efficient, ethical, or environmentally friendly. A large portion of them do not recycle everything that is within the product such as certain chemicals or heavy metals. Many organizations simply ship e-waste to other countries such as Africa or China where some is salvaged for money and the rest is dumped. This presents a huge problem especially with the increase in e-waste within the past 10 years. Estimates of around 40-50 million tonnes of e-waste is dumped around the world yearly; that number steadily increasing with the increased perception of obsolete electronics. Not only are these recycling organizations not recycling efficiently or sustainably, there are just not very many of them at all!

Concepts surrounding the idea of recycling are at times misconceptions so one must do some research into which recyclers are ethical. Call and ask who their downstream recyclers are and if they are withholding that information, you know something is not right. It is the consumer’s responsibility to use their electronics for their entire lifetime and ensure proper disposal for this is the only earth we all have to live on and what you can do affects how we live!

Facts and Definitions

Planned Obsolesce: A marketing strategy used to create new software in order to make the old electronics running it obsolete.

Vista Layer: The millions of tonnes of electronics dumped due to Microsoft creating Vista, an inefficient operating system designed to get the consumer to update their computer. (Planned Obsolesce)

Canada has signed an international treaty called the Basel Convention which is used to prevent the export of e-waste to other countries (recycle within the same country). Canada has not enforced this treaty due to lack of funding so e-waste is still shipped across borders.

The average lifespan of a computer in 1999 was 6 years, now it is 2 years.

Pictures from,,


  1. Wow great blog, thanks for the info.

  2. freegeek sells all the stuff they get and keep the cash

    they claim to give free computers but they dont

    there is better place to give your computers than free geek

    its this called spam? freegeek employees and directors posting blogs pumping up their service?

  3. It is your opinion and duty as a consumer to find and recycle your old electronics. I am not advertising for Free Geek, I am simply using them as an example of an ethical way to do it. Where would you suggest consumers could drop off their computers?

  4. Make sure that when you do recycle your electronics that the recycling company you use does not send electronics abroad for recycling and maintains socially responsible practices. If the recycling company does not tell you where the electronics end up, chances are, they are being shipped to a third world country, where recycling standards are low. Please check out our blog: