In the latest video from Story of Stuff, narrator Annie Leonard uncovers the secret life of our electronics and exposes some startling information about the effects our cherished gadgets have on human health and the environment.
Ever wonder why our electronics seem to have a life span just short of two years? It all started back in the 1960s when semiconductor pioneer, Thomas Moore, predicted that "electronic designers [could] double processor speed every eighteen months." This novel idea became known as Moore's law and has since proven fairly accurate. Sadly, electronics companies have taken this to mean they can make their products shoddy, so people will buy more and more often. The result is a substantial increase in profits for them, but ample trouble for us.
One big reason is because "today's electronics routinely contain toxic chemicals like lead, mercury, PVC, chlorine, and bromines." During the 90s, Electronics giant IBM found themselves in a lot of trouble after the study they commissioned revealed that women who worked on computer chips in their Silicone Valley facilities suffered more miscarriages than women in the general populous. According to theSilicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) , IBM, among many others, have since taken "their manufatcoring to offshore places of lower environmental and labor protections." Mostly in countries like "Costa Rica, Mexico, China, Malaysia, Singapore and Scotland."
At the end of their short lives, most of our old televisions, computers and cell phones are sent to landfills; a mere 20 percent are recycled. However, in many cases, the outcome is just as dismal. As it turns out, about "50 to 80 percent of [recycled electronics are] shipped overseas to Asia and Africa where [they are] broken apart by workers to extract the small bits of valuable metals." The workers and their surroundings then
become exposed to all those chemicals mentioned earlier.
These problems are grave, but not unsolvable. There are plenty of things the average person can do at the grass roots level to initiate change in a more sustainable direction. For instance, we can hold manufacturers accountable for their electronic waste by supporting operations like the Take Back My TV campaign. Since 2007, this campaign has been encouraging "companies to offer free takeback and recycling programs…".
We can become better informed about recycling our old electronics by using a "recycler who is part of the e-Steward network; they don’t export to developing nations, and they follow other high standards."
We can do our best to promote good laws at the federal, state and local level. Like the "Producer responsibility bills [that] were passed in nine states plus New York City in 2008 alone"
We can make an effort to buy greener electronics by using The Center for Environmental Health'sGreen Purchasing Website . This nifty site "shows you what you can do to find green electronics at home, at work and at school."
And we could take personal action as well! Get involved by telling congress to "support HR 6252, which would make it illegal to send toxic e-waste from the U.S. to poor countries."
Every little change we can promote brings us a step closer to a truly eco-friendly future. We encourage everyone to help in any way they can.