Recycling old computers and monitors, especially the toxic stuff, is a problem that is going to get bigger and bigger. A recent report suggests we are not handling this problem very well, and I know from my local recycling experiences this is seems to be case here in rural Oregon. Of the 2 million *tons* of old computer parts (mostly PCs and Monitors I assume) most find their way into landfills. Some 300,000 to 400,000 tons of parts are processed through “recycling” facilities, but the latest scandal suggests that most of this material is then send overseas where it may be contaminating other countries.
I have not followed up on this story, so it is possible that it’s like some other environmental red herrings where the economic benefits to the other countries are so great and the risks so trivial we won’t be doing anybody any favors by closing down the business, but obviously this type of situation looks ominous.
Technology and toxics is yet another topic where reason must prevail over scare tactics so we can develop clear, clean and economical solutions to complex environmental problems. For example compact flourescent bulbs, when broken, leave trace amounts of mercury. I learned this a few weeks *after* I swept up a broken bulb on our porch, completely oblivious to the fact this was – technically – toxic waste. Does this mean we should not use compact flourescents which offer huge energy savings? No, it but it suggests we need new technologies and different rules for how to handle mercury cleanup to avoid making a nation of lawbreakers. Perhaps a Gov’t approved “mercury cleanup kit” so schools and businesses won’t need to start closing when somebody drops a bulb.