Thursday, April 22, 2010
Electronic Waste: The Growing Problem With Planned Obsolescence
In today’s society, new technology becomes obsolete almost the second that it is purchased. There is always something new and shinier than the things that we already own. Add this to a capitalistic society, and we are almost certainly destined for an excess of “old” technology that needs a place to go. E-waste is the term commonly used to refer to this sort of refuse. While there are a myriad of recycling programs to help deal with these things that are no longer wanted, most often they tend to end up in landfills and incinerators or, more recently they have been exported to developing countries. It has been estimated that as many as 20 percent of unwanted computers end up in landfills. This can add up to over 4 million tons of e-waste a year and leach hazardous chemicals into the environment that can have irreparable damage. Many gadgets that are not thrown into landfills are incinerated, which is a large problem as this can release heavy metals into the atmosphere. Another way that this trash is dealt with is to export it to developing countries. This is currently not illegal in the United States and it is estimated that anywhere between 50 and 80 percent of the waste that is supposed to be recycled is actually shipped out this way. Many countries are currently trying to end this practice by implementing bans on the import of e-waste. There has to be a better way that this problem can be dealt with. Planned obsolescence may aid the economy, but it is harming the environment.