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The Future of Environmentalism: Nanotech and E-Waste

The Future of Environmentalism: Nanotech and E-Waste
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Care2 Earth Month: Back to Basics

This year, Care2 decided to expand Earth Day into Earth Month, since there is so much to explore when it comes to the environment. Every day in April, we’ll have a post about some of the most important topics for the environment, exploring and explaining the basics. It’s a great tool to help you get started with helping the environment — or help explain it to others. See the whole series here.

What better way to wrap up Care2′s Earth Month than to address two emerging concerns for the environmental movement? Why is e-waste a problem, and what can you do to help? And what is nanotech, and why should you care?


E-Waste: Why It’s A Problem

E-waste is a catch-all term encompassing any electronic product that is discarded after it reaches the end of its useful life. In some cases, this is when your computer or phone breaks and can’t be repaired, but let’s be honest – mostly, we replace our electronics when something new and better hits the market.

Unfortunately, there often isn’t any safe way available to dispose of electronics. They contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals which break down in landfills and can find their way into drinking water. Many cities and states forbid the dumping of these products in the trash with your normal garbage (although that doesn’t stop people from doing it).


Where do “recycled” electronics end up?

Ideally, you should recycle these products to help ease the load on the environment. In practice, there may not be anywhere in your area that recycles electronics. Some recycling companies charge fees to take your broken computer, printer, microwave, or phone away.

And some companies are unscrupulous, exporting waste to developing nations without strong worker protections. There workers break down the materials, causing damage to the environment and the people living in the immediate area.


How can you properly dispose of e-waste?

The EPA estimates that only 15-20% of e-waste ends up being properly recycled. There are a number of resources available to help consumers responsibly dispose of their unwanted electronics. recommends a number of programs for recycling – not all of which involve breaking machines down for parts. Instead, they support programs to refurbish or trade in electronics, sometimes with programs that help provide computers to the developing world.

Your local waste management program can also refer you to reputable local resources for recycling your used electronics.

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Photo credit: Gisela Giardino via Flickr

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5:46AM PDT on Sep 26, 2012


12:11AM PDT on Aug 31, 2012


12:13PM PDT on Jun 8, 2012

Science is an excellent tool towards the well-being of humankind and the Earth. We just need to use it wisely and respectfully.

5:45PM PDT on May 10, 2012

Nano technology- friend or foe?

4:10PM PDT on May 7, 2012

THere should be information from the place you buy your electronics (no matter what it is) as to where you can recycle it. Most of us have no clue what to do with a broken hair dryer, vacuum, or fan. This information needs to be available to us immediately upon our purchase. Can we bring it back, where do we have to take it, will it cost $, etc. If we don't know, we just toss it in the trash. It's the easiest thing to do. We are ignorant idiots.

2:25AM PDT on May 7, 2012

And yet we continue to pollute the earth with our discarded electronic gadgets. Something needs to be done about this. And soon.

11:49AM PDT on May 6, 2012


7:59AM PDT on May 6, 2012

Thank you for the intersting article. Hopefully, in the future, electronics firms will supply labels for return postage to encourage people to return items for refurbishing. As for the nano particles, it's a matter of "live & learn".

5:43AM PDT on May 4, 2012

This is an important issue. Since July 2007 we have had a Law which means that if you return a electrical product to the retailer where you bought it they have to dispose of it properly; in addition all retailers who sell batteries have to offer collection facilities for used batteries and then are responsible for disposing of them properly. It doesn't address the problem 100% but it certainly is a step in the right direction.

1:47PM PDT on May 3, 2012


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