You’ve probably seen pictures or footage of people in emerging countries, many of them very young, mired in toxic compounds as they scavenge for useful materials from mountains of e-waste that’s shipped from the U.S. and other wealthy nations. To help combat this, recycling programs have sprouted up and firms are participating in responsible disposal methods like reuse.
Giving your old PC new life sounds great, right? Gartner’s Meike Escherich isn’t convinced…
“Although reuse must be considered preferable to most other forms of waste management, without effective controls, exports for reuse can be an excuse for dumping, and, even in the best case, result in ‘passing the toxic buck’ to emerging economies, which are seldom equipped to deal with this problem in an environmentally and socially responsible way,” said Meike Escherich, principal research analyst at Gartner.
The problem is that these refurbished PCs, which are very much in demand in these countries, will eventually fail or become obsolete. When that happens, the landfill-bound equipment ends up leeching toxins in a country or region that’s ill-equipped to recycle electronics.
In short, our problem still becomes someone else’s.