The Dirty Little Secret of The Electronic Era

Friday, July 11, 2014 12:30

Laptops, phones, mp3 players and other electronic gadgets have become staple commodities in today’s technological era.  Our need for new and improved electronic equipment that becomes obsolete in two or three years has spawned the fastest growing waste stream: e-waste.

 

rsz_1dlsee_image_by_rayi_christian_w

 

The Problem:

In 2012 the world purchased 238.5 million televisions, 444.4 million computers and tablets and a staggering 1.75 billion cellphones. Back in 2008, Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resource Defense Council, estimated that in the USA alone we throw out 48 million computers and 100  every year. In fact, according to Sustainable Electronics Recycling International, the average US cellphone has a 22 month lifecycle. All these discarded electronics add up to 5-7million tons of ewaste every year from the USA alone. The volume of this electronic waste is expected to increase by 33% by 2020.

What happens to all this obsolete technology? The more conscientious individuals may try to recycle their useless electronics instead of letting them stew in a landfill. However, this task is easier said than done because used electronics are considered hazardous waste and contain toxic components such as lead, mercury, cadmium, phosphors, arsenic, flame retardants and polyvinyl chloride. These products are known carcinogenic substances that can cause liver and kidney damage, mutations and stillbirths and a plethora of other devastatinrsz_guiyu-ewasteg effects to our bodies when not handled and recycled properly. The inadequate dismantling and disposal of e-waste release these toxic substances into the soil and the air, infecting domestic and wild animals alike while poisoning our crops and drinking water. And the bewildering fact is that less than 20% of used electronics are recycled.

Another troubling fact is that the lethal byproducts of our electronic consumption, when one actually tries to properly recycle them, are oftentimes just dumped elsewhere. A disturbing reportage done by Scott Pelley for 60 minutes on CBS News back in 2009 provides video footage of the electronic wasteland created in Guiyu China by our failed recycling attempts. We are faced with an unfortunate reality; 80% of our “recycled electronics” actually end up exported to some roadside ditch somewhere far away.

The Solution

So how does one avoid contributing to the creation of an electronic Chernobyl? One solution is to use an ecoATM to recycle our mobile devices. EcoATM is an automated kiosk that buys back most used consumer electronics directly from consumers. The first step is finding the ecoATM closest to you; the ecoATM network is growing, with kiosks opening up all over the country. Then, clean out all your personal data on your phone. You will need your driver’s license and your fingerprints will be scanned during the process; this is done to avoid phone thefts and help return stolen property. The machine offers you a price and the chance to make a donation and then presto, cash for your old device! It should be noted, after reading several online reviews that pretty old phone models are not worth much. Therefore if you just want to make sure you are recycling responsibly, and don’t want to go through what can be a 15 minute process for a mere dollar or two, you can leave your old devices in the donations bin located on the ecoATM. The phones, mp3 players or tablets are refurbished if they can be fixed, and reused, or they are responsibly recycled.

The key factor in the recycling process is that ecoATM is itself R2 and ISO 14001 certified and only partners with e-waste recyclers who meet R2 or e-Stewards qualifications. The R2 standard is a premier glrsz_assorted_smartphonesobal, environmental, worker health and safety standard for the electronics refurbishing and recycling industry. ISO 14001 certifies that a company or organization has received energy audit training and can identify and control their environmental impact. E-Stewards are a project of the Basel Action Network aka BAN, which was named after the 1997 Basel Convention in which the United Nations ratified a treaty restricting the trade of hazardous wastes, effectively stopping the dumping of lethal waste on developing countries. Interestingly enough, the USA is the only developed country that has not ratified the Basel Convention, making certifications of responsible recycling such as e-steward all the more respected. Thus e-Stewards Certification is used to identify recyclers that adhere to the highest standard of environmental responsibility and worker protection in the electronic recycling, refurbishing and processing industry.

The ecoATM is a great concept, especially for those who would like to receive a couple dollars in exchange for their old electronics. But an ecoATM cannot process old televisions, computer monitors, printers, really old telephones etc. Therefore, using the e-Stewards website to find certified electronic recyclers in your region is the other environmentally sound option.

Innovating ideas, such as the ecoATM provide us with brilliant environmental and business solutions. But they require a clientele who is not turning a blind eye to the dangers of e-waste. It is our responsibility as electronic consumers to ensure our discarded gadgets do not end up poisoning somebody else’s backyard.

Be Sociable, Share!

    What the New EPA Rule Means

    Friday, June 13, 2014 16:58
    Posted in category Renewables

    Coal_power_plant_Datteln_2_Crop1 Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal plants by as much as 30% by 2030. While this regulation received heavy support from both environmental groups and industry professionals, this plan would have definite effects on several states, some more negative than others.

    Bad News, kids

    As would be expected, the coal industry and its supporters are in opposition of the proposal. Coal mining states like West Virginia have wasted no time in voicing their opinion. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R. W.Va) sent a letter to President Obama implying that the current proposal would be “catastrophic” and urging the President to abandon the proposal. The proposal has also caused a stir in Senate offices across the country. Read the rest of this entry »

    Be Sociable, Share!

      Combating Carbon through the Clean Power Plan

      Tuesday, June 3, 2014 18:16
      Posted in category Clean Energy News, Renewables

      Shatura_Steam_Power_PlantWith the direction and executive authority of President Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday released the Clean Power Plan, which cuts the carbon pollution from existing power plants that create 38% of the nation’s total carbon emissions. The plan is meant to cut carbon emission from the power sector nationwide by 30% below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year. The proposal is meant to protect public health and fight climate change, moving the nation towards a cleaner environment. The EPA, in its press release, proposes that this new plan will ‘sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation and create jobs’. Read the rest of this entry »

      Be Sociable, Share!

        The Sun Sets on an Outdated Business Model

        Tuesday, May 20, 2014 13:41
        Posted in category Energy Efficiency, Renewables

        Solar Word Cloud

        We are beginning to see an increased sophistication of the business models in the residential solar sector. Historically, solar energy in the residential sector has largely been inaccessible to the everyman due to the high initial investment of purchasing and installing the panels.

        To combat this issue, solar manufacturers and installers, often separate companies themselves, connected homeowners with the available grants, loans and/or renewable energy financing firms. This initiative helped many homeowners realize that rooftop solar panels were affordable for them. Read the rest of this entry »

        Be Sociable, Share!

          What is to become of the Investment Tax Credit?

          Monday, May 19, 2014 14:00
          Posted in category Clean Energy News, Renewables

          cleanedison_ITC_Solar
          The Investment Tax Credit has been one of the major factors of growth for the solar energy industry since its establishment in 2006. The ITC is a 30% tax credit for solar systems on residential and commercial properties. Following its success, it has helped annual solar installation grow by over 1,600% since 2006. The ITC was given an eight year extension in 2008 until December 31st 2016, when it will drop to 10%. Many professionals are now wondering what will become of an industry that has been driven so much by incentives when these will be gone. Read the rest of this entry »

          Be Sociable, Share!

            Beyond the Rooftop: Unconventional Applications of Solar Power

            Monday, May 12, 2014 11:30
            Posted in category Renewables

            The wide variety of solar technologies being developed by scientists and engineers is permitting the almost endless array of commercial applications that can be powered by the sun. Since solar technologies differ in terms of their energy conversion efficiency, cost effectiveness, weight, flexibility, durability under extreme weather conditions and unique balance of system requirements, the possibilities for developing marketable technologies using solar panels seems impossibly diverse. Three fascinating and unusual areas being explored by visionaries passionate about solar are aircrafts, wearable technologies, and public waste bins.

            Solar-Powered AircraftsSolar Powered Aircraft

            One of the most amazing technologies being built with solar panels is the zero-emission airplane. Believed to be years away in development, this technology is already in its infancy. Solar Impulse has developed an airplane that is entirely powered by solar energy. It has made successful flights all over the world and is scheduled to fly around the world (day and night) in 2015 as the first solar-powered airplane to achieve this monumental feat. Read the rest of this entry »

            Be Sociable, Share!

              The Solar Industry: Booming or Busting in a Lackluster Investment Environment?

              Tuesday, April 29, 2014 15:03
              Posted in category Clean Energy News, Renewables

              website_bild_gtr_3_1The decline in global investments in renewable energy isn’t as worrisome as it may seem, according to the 2014 Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment report, released in early April. The report, produced by the Frankfurt School – United Nations Energy Program Collaborating Center, reveals that the falling cost of producing renewable energy technologies is a major part of the equation.  Read the rest of this entry »

              Be Sociable, Share!

                Fracking: Fracturing Maryland?

                Tuesday, April 22, 2014 10:19
                Posted in category Clean Energy News, Renewables

                No FrackingThe case to ban fracking is growing more popular in a society that is becoming more environmentally aware. Fracking, technically known as hydraulic fracturing, is defined as the process in which “fractures in rocks below the earth’s surface are opened and widened by injecting chemicals and liquids at high pressure: used especially to extract natural gas or oil.” While fracking has its advantages, politics is strongly divided over this issue.

                The state of Maryland faces a split in opinions over this energy source; Read the rest of this entry »

                Be Sociable, Share!

                  The 7 Successes of Solar

                  Wednesday, February 19, 2014 10:37
                  Posted in category Renewables


                  How the solar energy industry is becoming one of the most widely beneficial sectors in the country

                  New York Solar

                  Things are looking up for the solar energy industry. Its growth has skyrocketed over the past few years and is projected to endure. If current trends continue, solar will account for 10% of American electricity by 2022.
                  A diverse array of stakeholders is largely affected by this booming industry, from veterans to homeowners to that all-pervading stakeholder, the environment. To help understand the state of the industry and what’s on the horizon, here’s a list of the ways in which the solar energy industry is fast becoming one of the most valuable sectors in the nation. Read the rest of this entry »
                  Be Sociable, Share!

                    The Era of Solar Energy

                    Friday, January 24, 2014 9:14
                    Posted in category Clean Energy Training, Renewables

                    solar energyIn honor of “National Shout Out for Solar Day,” we couldn’t help but share our excitement about the burgeoning solar energy industry. Arguably the most limitless source of energy, solar has been used for everything from desalination of seawater to providing heat and electricity; and its future is looking bright. Read the rest of this entry »

                    Be Sociable, Share!